Ashton Barkdull scores a game-winning touchdown in Andover Central's thrilling win over Buhler

Greg Williams
Butler County Times Gazette

ANDOVER, Kansas - Jaguar Stadium was the place to be at as two of the top-5 teams in the Gannett Kansas football power rankings clashed on Friday night.

It was everything you could expect in a heavyweight matchup between No. 5 Andover Central and No. 3 Buhler. It featured big plays, momentum shifts, and a down to the wire finish. 

The Jaguars once led 14-0 and saw their lead evaporate as Buhler stormed out of halftime by scoring 19 unanswered points.

Andover Central kept their composure with less than two minutes remaining in the game and looked for their senior running back Ashton Barkdull to make a play.

The Jaguars dialed up a screen pass to Barkdull and he took it 54-yards for a touchdown to give themselves a 21-19 lead.

Buhler would have a shot with one minute remaining, but Andover Central's senior linebacker Dillon Savage wanted to go home and get ready for homecoming as he made the game ceiling interception to give the Jaguars a 21-19 win.

Barkdull finished the game with 24 carries on 74 yards, 2 receptions for 64 yards, and two total touchdowns. One of those touchdowns was the game-winner, and just like any good running back, he knew who to thank.

"When we were down, we had to make something happen," said Barkdull. "We pulled a play out of our magic hat and I have to give credit to the offensive line, especially Drew Daniels. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have gotten that touchdown. He got the block that I needed and all I had to do was run."

This was a big win for the Jaguars as this puts them up as one of the best teams in the 4A league and in the state. However, Andover Central made a ton of mistakes they would like to clean up.

In the first half, Andover Central committed 11 penalties and fumbled the ball inside the red zone before halftime. Then, they let Buhler take the lead late in the game.

Buhler also had an opportunity to put a dagger into Andover Central, but the Crusaders linebacker dropped the ball before the Bardull touchdown. 

"This game is kind of hard to describe," said Andover Central head coach Derek Tuttle. "We have a lot of things to fix, but give a lot of credit to Buhler. But, we have a lot of areas to work on, and responding to adversity. We had way too many penalties and that frustrated me. Our kids fought hard and to the very end."

One play that almost became a disaster for Andover Central was one of their touchdowns. 

The Jaguars were at their 2-yard line and senior quarterback Kai Kunz dropped back to pass in his own endzone and found Brock Stupka near midfield. However, once Stupka caught the ball, he was tackled, and the ball came out. 

There was no whistle for an incompletion and junior wide receiver Cooper Tabor comes out of nowhere and picks up the ball. Tabor runs 58-yards and it was ruled a touchdown for the Jaguars. 

"I didn't know if it was an incomplete pass or a fumble," said Tabor. "I didn't hear any whistles, so I just picked it up and ran with it. This was such a hard-fought game and we proved that we can compete."

Next week Andover Central (2-0) will travel to Goddard to take on Eisenhower (1-1) with a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Greg Williams has been the reporter for the Wellington Daily News and Butler County Times-Gazette since May 2021. You can reach him at GWilliams@gannett.com or on Twitter at @GregWilliams28.