Ashton Barkdull leads Jaguars to fourth straight win over rival Andover

Lionel Tipton
Special to Butler County Times-Gazette
Andover Central's Ashton Barkdull (22) fight off Andover's Josh Wolfe (7) on a run during Friday night's 27-20 win over rival Andover.

ANDOVER, Kansas —  Homecoming ceremonies have come and gone, but there was a homecoming of sorts Friday night.

Andover Central took on rival Andover in a stadium it had called home from its 2001 inception until opening its own stadium a year ago.

The Jaguars made themselves at home early on, jumping to a 14-0 first-quarter lead. But things became very uncomfortable before Andover Central held off a furious Andover rally for a 27-20 victory.

The game featured a battle of two of the top running backs in the state, both seniors who wear No. 22 for their respective teams.

Jaguars back Ashton Barkdull, battling back from injury, carried the ball 27 times for 126 yards and a 1-yard touchdown. In all, Andover Central gained 220 yards on the ground.

“He recovered than he thought he was going to,” Andover Central coach Derek Tuttle said. “That helped him get back out there.”

Barkdull said year in, year out, that the Andover game is one that the Jaguars want to win.

“It was awesome,” he said. “This was a game we’ve been looking forward to since the season started. I think both teams. All of seniors who have been here for a while, we’ve never lost to Andover since we were in seventh grade.

“And we were like, ‘We can’t let this streak end this year.’”

His Andover counterpart, Max Middleton, had 96 yards on 31 carries and scored on runs of 5 and 1 yards.

Tuttle said those numbers did not go unnoticed.

“Those two are great kids and great running backs,” he said.

A slow start dogged the Trojans (5-2), who finally broke through on a 28-yard scoring pass from junior quarterback Brady Strausz to senior Quentin Born with 7:51 before halftime.

On the ensuing Andover Central drive, Jaguars senior lineman Drew Daniels was injured and had to be removed in an ambulance.

Two minutes later, the Jaguars (6-1) took their largest lead of the game 21-6 when senior quarterback Kai Kunz found Brock Stupka in the end zone for a 21-6 lead.

But the Trojans didn’t quit and held the Jaguars to just two field goals while putting up 14 and reclassifying this game into one that better befits a rivalry game – right down to the Trojans recovering an onside kick after Middleton’s second touchdown at their 48 and threatening a potential tying or winning touchdown.

“I’m always nervous until the scoreboard says 0:00,” Tuttle said. “We knew they were going to be a tough team, and it was one of those things where we had some big stops on key downs.”

Quite possibly the difference in the game was the foot of Andover Central junior kicker Isaac Saye, who was perfect on three point-after tries. But he also hit field goals of 35 and 24 yards when the Jaguars’ offense stalled.

“I’m really proud of Isaac,” Tuttle said. “He’s struggled a little bit at times with kicks we thought he could make, but he kept his head about him, kept practicing and worked hard, and he got it to pay off (Friday night).”

Even though neither Kunz nor Strausz exceeded 100 passing yards, they made the most of the few completions they had.

Tuttle said Kunz can affect the game in other ways besides passing yardage.

“He manages the game really well,” Tuttle said. “He is starting to see things that the defense is giving him, so he’s doing a nice job of managing the game and executing.”

While unable to provide specifics, Tuttle said Daniels was doing well so far.

“It’s good news so far,” he said. “They’re taking it precautionary, making sure nothing’s messed up along his spinal cord. We’re checking him out really well.

When the injury occurred, both teams immediately took a knee and waited. Even though the schools are rivals, the mutual respect was apparent.

Daniels, a four-year starter, is someone the Andover Central players look up to, Tuttle said.

“He’s a very quiet leader, but the kids respect him a lot because of how he plays, how passionate he is and that sort of thing,” Tuttle said. “The kids were definitely shook up a little bit, but at the same time they responded very quickly about wanting to play for him, which is really cool, and that was a nice thing to see.”

Losing Daniels somewhat deflated the Jaguars’ defense, Barkdull said.

“We’ve got great backups and everything, but there’s nothing that can compare to him (Daniels) and what he can do up front for us,” Barkdull said. “When we lost him, they knew it, and that really helped their run game.”

“He’s a great leader on our team; you can’t replace Drew,” Kunz said.

Tuttle cited the Jaguars’ quick opening flurry as a key to the victory.

“Getting that fast start was huge, because Andover is a very solid football team, and they have a run game that can kind of just eat you to death if you let them get to you.

“So, just getting a jump on things was helpful, because they’re going to keep plugging away – it’s what they do – until they get it going.

Spotting Andover Central the early touchdowns pretty much was the difference, Trojans coach Ken Dusenbury said.

“We’ve got to learn how to play championship football,” he said. “We’re close, but we’ve got to learn a little bit. The coaches, the players, we’ve just got to get a little bit better.”

Andover’s only other loss was to a tough Maize team, and Dusenbury said he realizes his team just needs to shrug it off and fix what it can.

“We’re real proud of our kids’ efforts, but we’re just going to have to go back to work,” he said.

Andover closes the regular season at Goddard next Thursday, and Andover Central will likely have payback on its mind when Arkansas City travels to face the Jaguars on Friday. A year ago, the Bulldogs eliminated the Jaguars from the Class 4A playoffs with a 33-28 upset victory.

“The kids are going to want to be ready for that game, to be sure,” Tuttle said.

Andover Central 27, Andover 20

Andover Central;14;10;0;3—27

 Andover;0;6;6;8—20

AC - 1-yard TD run by Ashton Barkdull (Isaac Saye kick)

AC - 21-yard TD run by Cooper Tabor (Saye kick)

A - 28-yard TD pass from Brady Strausz to Quinton Born (kick no good)

AC - 25-yard TD pass from Kai Kunz to Brock Stupka (Saye kick)

AC - 35-yard FG by Saye

A - 5-yard TD run by Maxi Middleton (pass fail)

AC - 24-yard FG by Saye

A - 1-yard TD run by Middleton (Strausz to BJ Redic pass)

RUSHING: Central - Barkdull 27-146; Kuntz 8-50; Jackson Rees 3-23; Tabor 1-21. Team 3-0. TOTALS: 42-220. Andover - Middleton 31-96; Pai 8-51; Strausz 6-(-10). 

PASSING (C-A-TD-I): Kunz 6-10-1-0 70. Andover - Strausz 9-15-1-0 91. 

RECEIVING: Stupka 3-60; Ek 1-16; Tabor 1-0; Barkdull 1-(-6). Andover - Klein 4-30; Born 2-36; Rudy 1-11; Middleton 1-7; Weber 1-7.