By: Aaron Pyle
In the previous matchup for the Trojans (2-4), Oct. 9, the Burlington Wildcats (6-1) were able to handle Girard by a score of 52-34. The Wildcats were led by senior Braden Sloyer who finished the game with 209 total yards and five touchdowns, 172 of Sloyer’s yards came in the running game.
Following the loss, the Trojans traveled to Iola Saturday, Oct. 17 to face the Mustangs (2-2) in a district battle. Last season in the meeting between the two teams, the Trojans were able to defeat the Mustangs 14-12 in a game where defense reigned supreme. Coming into Saturday’s matchup, Iola lost to Prairie View (4-1) by a margin of 42-7 on Monday, Oct. 12.
Weather conditions became a key factor for both teams as the wind speed reached up to 25 mph during Saturday’s matchup. For the Trojans as well, seniors Connor Olivera, Logan Thomas as well as junior Gage Davenport returned to the lineup after missing time due to being quarantined.
After holding the Mustangs’ offense to a three and out on the opening drive of the game, the Trojans worked the ball upfield with their running game. Converting on a key fourth down, the Trojans then pushed the ball into the red-zone which led to junior Ethan Merrell scoring on a 6-yard run up the middle. Sophomore Garrett Humble nailed the extra-point attempt as Girard went up 7-0 early in the first.
Forcing Iola to a second three and out, Merrell continued his first-quarter dominance breaking tackles and running in the ball for a 30-yard touchdown adding to the Trojans’ lead. Humble would once again nail the extra-point attempt as Girard led 14-0 with 6:20 remaining in the first quarter.
The defensive front of the Trojans was able to continually apply pressure on the backfield of the Mustangs as Iola remained cold for the majority of the first quarter. Sophomore Luke Niggemann was subbed in at quarterback midway through the first quarter for Girard.
Late in the first, Girard would go for it on 4th and 14 off a screen pass which gave Trojans enough yards but penalties push the ball back even farther. Girard then went for it once again and Niggemann was able to connect with senior Mason Huebner for first down putting Girard in the red-zone once again.
To begin the second quarter, the Trojans added to their lead when Niggemann ran a quarterback keeper from four yards. The extra-point attempt was no good from Humble as Girard led 20-11 early in the second quarter.
The Trojans defensive line was able to respond to Mustangs’ hot start to the second quarter by getting to the quarterback. Girard’s relentless defensive front then forced the Mustangs to a turnover on downs.
Shortly following the turnover, Niggemann throws a pass to Huebner for a 54-yard touchdown. Humble was able to make the extra-point attempt as Girard led Iola 27-0 with 8:45 left to play in the second quarter.
Girard’s defensive continually kept the Mustangs offense in check throughout the first half as Iola was held to a minimum.
Closing the first half, sophomore Alex Coester capped off an 80-yard drive for the Trojans by scoring a 6-yard touchdown, adding to the Trojans’ already large lead. The extra-point attempt was once again good by Humble.
At halftime, the Trojans led 34-0 over the Mustangs. Unofficially, Girard totaled 250 yards of offense in the first quarter while Iola was held to 75 yards.
From there, the Trojans were able to hold to Mustangs to just seven points in the second half. Girard also added two more touchdowns in the second half. Senior Connor Olivera scored a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:22 remaining in the third. Also, Lallemand threw an 18-yard pass to Huebner for another Trojans’ touchdown as nine minutes remained in the game.
Girard went on to defeat Iola 48-7 as a running clock was put into effect in the final quarter of the contest.
“We didn’t have that many turnovers,” said Coach Neal Philpot to Girard Sports Live’s Dale Shireman. “That helps us when we can establish drives and maintain the ball when you can put up some yards like that.”
Closing the regular season, the Trojans (3-4) look to defeat the Frontenac Raiders (3-4) in a league/district matchup which is slated for Friday, Oct. 23 in Frontenac. Girard will look to avenge last season’s turnout where the Trojans fell 34-0 to the Raiders in the first round of the 2019 3A District Playoffs.