Salina Central relies on defense in 21-14 upset of top-ranked Andover Central
Mark Sandbo said Salina Central has been frustrated in 50-50 games this season.
With losses already to Andover and Goddard Eisenhower, the Mustangs had a game plan to upset Andover Central on Friday night.
They executed it perfectly on the way to a 21-14 victory over the Jaguars, the top-ranked team in Class 4A, at Salina Stadium.
"We feel like we've been on the short end of the stick," Sandbo said. "It kind of feels good to get over that hump (and) that we're on the right side of the scoreboard. Players like (Hayden Vidricksen, Logan Losey, Parker Kavanagh, Angel Luna and Kayson Graham), they're the reason why."
The Mustangs won their third straight to improve to 4-2 overall and 3-2 in Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Division II play. The Jaguars fell to 5-1, 3-1 AVCTL-II
Salina Central's defense makes a statement without Brooks Richardson
The Mustangs had to go without linebacker Brooks Richardson against the Jaguars, but it was the next man up.
"Brooks is a great player," Graham said. "We've got a young Gunnar Gross coming in and just had to take him under our wing."
The Mustangs' defensive energy turned to opportunities for the offense.
After holding the ball for nearly seven minutes to start the game, Andover Central elected to go for a field goal and missed.
The Mustangs got an interception by Jaxon Kolzow in the fourth quarter and also got to Andover Central quarterback Kai Kunz five times.
"It felt good to do my job," junior Trevon Cole said. "The QB was scrambling around and we were putting pressure on him. He had to throw and then Jaxon came down and made a play."
Even though the Mustang defense did allow some big plays, it came up big when it mattered the most. After Kolzow's interception, the Mustangs gave the ball right back to the Jaguars with 4:21 left to play, clinging to a seven-point lead.
Seven plays later the Mustangs got the stop they needed and gave the ball back to the offense to run off the final 2:20 and preserve the victory.
"Everybody's just doing their job," Cole said of the final defensive stand. "Staying in their zone (and) doing what they're supposed to do."
Sandbo said the Mustang defense rose to the challenge.
"I couldn't be more pleased with our defense," he said. "I thought they responded."
Hayden Vidricksen, Logan Losey make big catches to lead Salina Central offense
When Andover Central stopped the Mustangs' run game, that opened up the passing attack.
Kavanagh's two favorite targets, Vidricksen and Losey, combined for 13 catches for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Losey had both touchdown receptions, but Vidricksen made catch after catch to set up the scores.
"We do our best to spread the ball," Vidricksen said. "We've got a bunch of playmakers on offense. I tell every single one of my offensive players to go up and make a play whenever it needs to be done."
Sandbo said the Mustangs' receiving duo is never selfish.
"It might be Logan catching 12 balls in a night and Viddy catching one, but you see Viddy blocking for them downfield or it might be the other way around," Sandbo said. "Viddy seemed to take us down the field and then Logan (goes) over the top to finish it off."
Andover Central coach Derek Tuttle said Vidricksen was an impressive wideout with every catch he made against the Jaguar defense.
Losey said it was fun to catch the touchdown passes of 28 and 26 yards from Kavanagh. Kavanagh then finished the scoring on a 3-yard run that gave Salina Central a 21-14 lead with 6:42 remaining.
Losey's 26-yard touchdown reception with 42 seconds left in the first half broke a scoreless and gave Salina Central a 7-0 lead at intermission.
"It was super fun," Losey said. "Parker's a great quarterback."
Andover Central suffers first loss while losing Ashton Barkdull to an injury
Andover Central had success early with running back Ashton Barkdull, but during the first drive of the game, he left with an injury and didn't return.
Salina Central took advantage by getting to Kunz and holding Jace and Jackson Rees to a combined 22 yards rushing after Barkdull left the game.
"They had a good game plan coming in on both sides of the ball," Tuttle said. "We told our kids to prepare for a good fight. We came out and we fought and we tried to come back in the second half and never gave up.
"We just missed some opportunities early in the game and missed some opportunities in the second half."
The Jaguars tied the game at 7 with Kunz finding Cooper Tabor for a 35-yard touchdown reception on a fourth-and-10 play with 5:34 left in the third quarter.
After Losey grabbed his second touchdown with 2:37 left in the third, Kunz had a 1-yard rushing touchdown to tie it again with 10:05 left.
Andover Central travels to Andover to face its crosstown rival at 7 p.m. Friday, while Salina Central hosts Goddard at Salina Stadium.
Dylan Sherwood has been a sports reporter for the Salina Journal since August 2019. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DSherwoodSJ