ANDOVER – All season long, Andover Central had shown remarkable resiliency – any time the Jaguars were challenged, they always found a way to slip the hook and prevail.
But Arkansas City came out firing Friday night – literally.
A flea-flicker pass from Cadon Clark to Lucas Barnes for an 80-yard touchdown shocked the Jaguars – and that was only the beginning.
The Bulldogs thwarted Andover Central on goal-line stands early and late in the game and held on for a 33-28 upset victory at Jaguar Stadium.
Arkansas City (4-6) advances to the Class 4A West semifinals at Wamego (6-4), a 21-18 upset winner over El Dorado.
Jaguars coach Derek Tuttle said Arkansas City’s strategy paid off.
"Give a lot of credit to Ark City," he said. "They had a great game plan, their quarterback (Gabe Welch) is a tremendously talented kid. He throws the ball really well, and they had a lot of quick passes to their receivers early that kept the chains moving."
Even though Andover Central trailed for most of the game, the Jaguars never stopped fighting and had pulled to within five points of the Bulldogs, thanks to Ark City conversion woes of a blocked kick and a failed two-point pass.
The Jaguars (7-2) were threatening in the game’s final minute, and had a shot to win when a pass from Chase White to Jack Bell – augmented by a pass interference call – gave Andover Central a first-and-goal at the Bulldogs’ 5. But an illegal-formation penalty pushed the ball back to the 10 and, after two incompletions, White was sacked at the 15, killing Andover Central’s hopes.
"That penalty on the (last drive) really killed us, because that pushed us back a ways," Tuttle said.
Andover Central owned a regular-season victory over the Bulldogs, a 37-6 triumph at Arkansas City on Oct. 23. In that game, 14 fourth-quarter points helped build a comfortable cushion.
But Tuttle said his team was confounded Friday by Ark City’s offense.
"They show a lot of different looks," he said. "They’re a hard team to prepare for because of that. But it’s a situation where they kind of have an identity with their quick passes and screens, and things like that.
"Defensively, they didn’t do a whole lot from what we were expecting. We just need to play better down the stretch."
When it seemed Andover Central was moving forward, a penalty would push the Jaguars back. The flag on the final drive was the Jaguars’ sixth of the night – many of which came at the worst possible time in drives.
"We kind of shot ourselves in the foot several times and hurt us with penalties early on that killed some drives," Tuttle said.
But Andover Central, which has benefited from the big play throughout the season, had some this time around. Junior running back Ashton Barkdull found a hole and outran the Ark City defenders for a 72-yard score that gave the Jaguars a 14-7 lead with 9:19 before halftime.
That would be Andover Central’s only lead of the night, as Barnes – who caught six passes for 181 yards on the night – got behind the Jaguars’ defense and hauled in a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Welch.
Turnovers also played a pivotal role in Andover Central’s downfall. The Jaguars lost two fumbles – including a bizarre one when the ball was poked from Barkdull’s grasp and sailed into the arms of Ark City senior linebacker Korbin Wise, who took it back 60 yards for a 21-17 lead just before halftime.
Senior Jacob Rees also had a big night in his final game as a Jaguar, carrying 16 times for 112 yards and a touchdown. Barkdull’s long TD helped him gain a total of 126 yards on 12 carries. White completed 11 of 17 passes for 156 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown to senior Davin Simms.
But Welch was on fire, completing 18 of 27 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown.
Tuttle praised his seniors, who won a league title for the first time this year.
"That hasn’t really been talked about," he said. "That was something that they were able to accomplish, and they also showed a lot of character, a lot of heart this year, so I’m really proud of those guys."
Arkansas City 7;14;6;6 – 33
Andover Central 7;7;7;7 – 28
ArkC – Barnes 80 pass from Clark (Clark kick)
AndC – J. Rees 2 run (White kick)
AndC – Barkdull 72 run (White kick)
ArkC – Barnes 56 pass from Welch (Clark kick)
ArkC – Wise 60 fumble return (Clark kick)
ArkC – Welch 1 run (kick blocked)
AndC – Simms 21 pass from White (White kick)
ArkC – Welch 1 run (pass failed)
AndC – J. Rees 1 run (White kick)
RUSHING: Arkansas City: Welch 12-29, Bahm 9-10, Clark 1-(-7). Andoer Central: J. Rees 16-112, Barkdul 12-126, Simms 2-16, White 6-(-2).
PASSING: Arkansas City: Welch 18-27-0-177; Clark 1-1-0-80. Andover Central: White 11-17-0-156.
RECEIVING: Arkansas City: Barnes 6-181, O’Toole 8-50, Bucher 3-17, Clark 2-19. Andover Central: Simms 5-64, Bell 4-59, Kohman 2-16, Stupka 1-12, J. Rees 1-8, Barkdull 1-(-3).