ANDOVER – As the temperature began to plunge and wind chills approached the freezing level, Andover held on and provided a warm feeling with a hard-fought 20-13 victory Friday night over visiting Goddard.
Andover (5-3) fell just short of a Class 5A home playoff opener, earning the No. 9 seed and playing at Wichita Heights (4-2).
As usual, junior running back Max Middleton shouldered the bulk of the load, carrying the ball on 38 of the Trojans’ 72 offensive plays for 177 yards. Ashton Ngo celebrated his Senior Night by adding 59 yards on 13 carries and the Trojans’ final touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the Goddard 1 that provided a seven-point cushion with 2:26 to play.
"His fourth-down touchdown run was pretty big," Andover coach Ken Dusenbury said afterward. "He just has a nose for the end zone."
But Goddard senior quarterback Kyler Semrad, who put up 349 passing yards on Andover Central earlier in the season, wasn’t quite finished.
"They have a great quarterback and a great passing game, so (going) the length of the field is nothing to them," Dusenbury said.
The Lions (6-2) started at their 40 after Ngo’s touchdown and marched to the Trojans’ 18. But Chandler Goodnight and Middleton sacked Semrad at the Andover 29. After an incompletion, Semrad heaved the ball toward the end zone, but Andover junior Tayton Klein was there for the interception with 47 seconds left that salted away the victory.
Klein said he deviated from the plans a bit, and it paid off.
"Our coaches always talk about play the receiver first, but I made a play on the ball at the right time," Klein said. "Our DBs stepped up (Friday night) against the best passing offense in (Class) 5A."
Dusenbury said Klein’s interception was especially noteworthy after this week.
"He had a rough week of practice," said Dusenbury, in his first season at Andover. "If you had been here at practice the past couple of days … he came through big for us, and we’re real proud of him."
Senior Isaiah Maikori said he got "super excited" when he saw Klein come down with the ball.
"He started the game off a little rough, but he came back and made a big play in a big moment," Maikori said.
The crazy thing about Middleton is that even when the defense knows he is coming, he still manages to find a way to gain yardage.
"He trusts his blockers," Dusenbury said. "If it blows up, he’s not afraid of getting 1 yard or 2 yards, and then those kind of go, because he’s such a tough kid. He doesn’t dance around; he just hits the hole so fast and has great vision, and trusts his guys up front."
Having a talent like Middleton is not lost on his coach.
"He’s a special running back with a lot of heart and ability to just get an extra 2-3 yards on his own," Dusenbury said.
Andover took a lead it would not relinquish when sophomore quarterback Brady Strausz called his own number and took the ball in on a keeper for a 14-13 lead with 9:11 to play.
"He’s a leader; the team’s kind of jelling around him," Dusenbury said.
Andover’s defense, always stingy against the run, proved it can handle the pass as well. The Lions were limited to just 55 rushing yards on 16 carries for the game, but holding down Semrad to 173 passing yards was also big, Maikori said.
"We did a good job containing him and did a good job to limit him," Maikori said. "We took away their passing and made them find other ways to be successful."
Another Trojans junior, Grant Weber, also picked off Semrad with 6:28 to play and returned it to the Goddard 16, starting the drive that was capped by Ngo’s fourth-down scoring run.
Andover 20, Goddard 13
Goddard 0;7;6;0 – 13
Andover 7;0;0;13 – 20
A – Herrs 7 pass from Strausz (Champlin kick)
G – Reese 4 pass from Semrad (Collins kick)
G – Wickliffe 1 run (kick failed)
A – Strausz 1 run (Champlin kick)
A – Ngo 1 run (kick blocked)
RUSHING: Goddard: Bantz 4-28, Reese 6-27, Wickliffe 2-1, Semrad 4-(-1). Andover: Middleton 38-177, Ngo 13-59, Strausz 3-1, Sparks 2-(-2).
PASSING: Goddard: Semrad 13-22-2-173. Andover: Strausz 5-16-0-81.
RECEIVING: Goddard: Bantz 3-54, Carr 3-52, Shope 3-41, Reese 3-13, Haskell 1-13. Andover: Richardson 2-11, Born 1-39, Ek 1-24, Herrs 1-7.