Ichabods roll over Tigers on homecoming

Archived Photo

Mariauna Hernandez

With the excitement surrounding the many Washburn homecoming festivities, the Ichabods did not disappoint their home crowd on Saturday afternoon.

After a painful loss last week against Northwest Missouri, the Ichabods bounced back in a 45-20 victory over the Fort Hays State Tigers, improving their overall record to 8-1.

“I am proud of the team,” said Craig Schurig, head coach. “When you lose a game like we did last week, there’s going to be a little of a hangover from it, but our kids really responded. [FHSU] came in and played well so it wasn’t an easy game. I’m really proud about how we played as a team in the fourth quarter. The second half in general, I thought we played really well.”

The Washburn offense came out with a vengeance, as it received the opening kickoff. The Ichabods began at their own 31-yard line after a nice return from sophomore defensive back Devon Conners. Senior running back Justin Cooper got the offense its initial first down of the game and more after a late hit penalty out-of-bounds by Tigers’ senior defensive back Korey Allison. After a successful charge to the 10-yard line, the Ichabods were first on the board with a 26-yard field goal by junior kicker Jeremy Linn, taking a 3-0 lead.

Linn re-entered the field for a surprise onside kick to FHSU’s 44-yard line recovered by Washburn sophomore wide receiver Mark Fancher. This play set up the Ichabod’s first rushing touchdown with a 44-yard run by Cooper. Southwestern winds played a tiny part in the game and affected the following kickoff, giving the Tigers good field position at their 45-yard line, which increased three yards after a Washburn flag. Just when it seemed FHSU would be forced off the field following a joint sack by Washburn sophomore linebacker Bryce Atagi and senior defensive tackle Ian Williams for negative five yards, the Tigers trudged onto the WU 15-yard line. FHSU junior quarterback Anthony Sheppard breathed life into the offense by connecting with senior tight end Chase Leake for a 15-yard TD reception, shortening Washburn’s lead 10-7.

WU’s senior quarterback Dane Simoneau responded with an 80-yard drive, resulting in a 35-yard TD reception by sophomore wide receiver DeJuan Beard, extending the lead by six points after a failed extra point attempt. Washburn closed the quarter leading 16-7. Simoneau was 24-of-34 for 313 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, making him only the fourth player in MIAA history to throw for more than 10,000 career yards.

“I don’t look at it as surprising,” said Beard. “I am happy and have nothing but love for him and I’m glad to be apart of that. Dane is an awesome teammate. His composure and confidence just rub off on the whole team. He is a great leader that leads by example. I have the upmost respect for the things he has done here at Washburn. He’s one of the best quarterbacks I’ve ever played with in my life. All in all, a great player and person.”   

The beginnings of the second quarter both offenses remained silent until midway through. The Tigers made their presence known with a one-yard QB sneak by Sheppard, tightening the race 16-14. Just under a minute later, the Ichabods countered with a Simoneau 46-yard TD pass to Beard, the second score of the day for the power duo and the last of the second quarter. Beard had six catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns in the contest.

FHSU attempted a comeback in the third quarter but were stopped after an interception by Washburn senior linebacker Jahmil Taylor, who donned No. 20 on his jersey in honor of deceased player Jermon Watson, at the WU 36-yard line. The Ichabods tried to capitalize off the defensive play but failed after a series of negative plays, and a failed fourth down attempt placed the Tigers on the WU 48-yard line.

FHSU breezed deep through Washburn territory to the 10-yard line where the WU defense made a stance, holding the Tigers to a 37-yard field goal attempt that was missed by FHSU junior kicker Tyler Kimbrough.

The Ichabods began at their own 20-yard line and marched to the FHSU one-yard line, handing the ball off to Washburn sophomore running back Sean McPherson who was stuffed for no gain on third down. Washburn went for a fourth down conversion, relying once again on McPherson who pounded it in the end zone increasing the lead, 30-14.

The Ichabods attempted to extend their lead early in the fourth quarter, but would be intercepted by FHSU sophomore defensive back Sherod Murdock at the WU 35-yard line. The Tigers first play would in turn be intercepted by Washburn senior free safety Casey Curran at the WU 11-yard line. The Ichabods galloped down the field on the heels of McPherson and Cooper. Cooper rushed for 23 yards, earning the Ichabods their fifth TD of the afternoon. Each running back had a big day rushing for over 100 yards. Cooper had 16 carries for 111 yards, while McPherson had a team-high 20 carries for 102 yards. In a last effort, the Tigers rallied to the WU 14-yard line for another rushing TD by Sheppard. The Tigers looked to execute a two-point conversion, but Taylor broke up the pass.

For the Ichabods’ last drive, backup freshman quarterback Mitch Buhler was at the helm, moving the offense down the field after a 41-yard reception by sophomore wide receiver Mark Fancher. Washburn senior fullback Greg Schoenberg ran in from a yard for a touchdown, hammering on the final score of 45-20. 

Washburn’s next game will be a road challenge Nov. 5 at 2p.m. against the undefeated Pittsburg State Gorillas.