Ichabods still alive in quest for playoffs

Dominating performance Ronnell Garner, right, runs for yards after the catch. The Ichabods won 45-12 against the Bulldogs.

Josh Rouse

The Washburn Ichabods’ (5-4, 4-3) postseason dreams are still alive following a 45-12 victory last Saturday against Truman State (4-5, 2-5).

The embattled gridiron gang returns home with a winning record, set for a 2:20 p.m. revival of the oldest rivalry in Division II football Saturday against Emporia State (5-5, 3-5) for Senior/Family Day. While its record may pale in comparison to the expectations the team set for itself at the beginning of the season, Washburn hasn’t taken the easiest of roads to get to the Turnpike Tussle this weekend. In fact, the Ichabods’ schedule has been rated the toughest in the nation.

With all four losses against nationally-ranked opponents, and by a total of only 22 points, the Ichabods desperately needed a win in Kirskville, Mo., against TSU to salvage any shot at postseason play.

The Bods fell behind early as the Bulldogs drove 84 yards on their first possession to score on a two-yard rush by Phillip Davis. The next possession, junior quarterback Dane Simoneau connected with freshman tight end Tore Hurst for a 26-yard touchdown to tie the game. The Bulldogs registered a safety after a bad snap went over fifth-year senior punter Austin Hills’ head and into the end zone, bringing the score to 9-7 before Washburn scored 14 points in the final 2:02 of the half.

In the second half, the Bods continued to roll on offense, scoring 38 unanswered points before Truman State ended it with a field goal with three minutes left in regulation. Sixth-year senior receiver Joe Hastings, after catching four passes for 108 yards, become the first Ichabod receiver since Sam Sissom in 2004 to go over the 1,000-yard mark in receiving yards. Junior defensive end Dakota Palan-Johnson, named MIAA Defensive Player of the Week, recorded a career-high 11 tackles and a sack, helping hold the Bulldog offense to only 194 total yards.

Following the victory against TSU, Washburn now sits in a three-way tie for third place in the MIAA. Missouri Western (6-3, 4-3), and Nebraska-Omaha (4-5, 4-3). In the first football Division II regional rankings of the year, released Monday, Washburn was ranked No. 10 in the Super Regional Four behind Central Washington (6-3, 5-2 in Division II) and Humboldt State (7-2, 5-1 in Division II). By all accounts, it appears the Ichabods’ tough schedule may be working in their favor with the NCAA Division II Football Committee, and perhaps with enough luck they would still be able to squeeze into the top eight and make the playoffs. Other MIAA schools to crack the Top Ten in the region were Central Missouri (2), Northwest Missouri (4) and Missouri Western (7). Abilene Christian, which handed Washburn its first loss of the season, is ranked No. 1 in the region with a 9-0 record.

Following Washburn’s matchup with Emporia State, which airs on the MIAA TV Network (Cox 22), the Ichabods hit the road one more to take on Missouri Southern Saturday, Nov. 13, at 2 p.m. in Joplin, Mo.