No monkey business as Washburn upsets No. 18 Pittsburg State

Foot race Washburn receiver Jake Lebahn runs away from the Pittsburg State defense for a 68-yard reception. He had six catches for 153 yards including touchdowns of 31 yards and six yards.

Josh Rouse

The culmination of four years of toil, pain and determination into one intense 60-minute battle for glory with the gridiron heroes who have become so loved and cherished: Senior Day.

As Washburn took the field Saturday against the No. 18 Pittsburg State Gorillas, it was clear that the one factor most prevalent on this day was experience.

The game began in unceremonious fashion as the Ichabods were unable to move the ball efficiently and had to punt. The ball was fumbled on the return, however, and Washburn dove on it.

Rather than capitalizing on this fortunate series of events, the ball was fumbled by senior Ra’Shawn Mosley, attempting to fight through a lingering injury so that his presence could be felt on Senior Day.

“He’s been injured and he didn’t practice all week,” said Craig Schurig, head coach. “It was Senior Day and we wanted to give him the chance to see if he could go and he just couldn’t.”

Mosley would rush the ball only four times on the day, fumbling the ball again later in the first quarter but recovering it this time.

“I think we were just a little rusty,” said senior quarterback Jordan Brill. “We were forcing turnovers, too. The defense was physical and we were able to put a helmet on the ball and knock the ball loose.”

Instead of Mosley leading the charge at running back, junior Brandon Walker pounded away at the Gorilla defense. After PSU quarterback Mark Smith scored the first of his three rushing touchdowns in the first quarter, Walker responded on a 3-yard touchdown scamper of his own, concluding a 13-play, 80-yard drive.

Walker was the main threat on the drive, rushing five times in a row while in the red zone and totaling six rushes for 19 yards and a 25-yard reception on a deep pass from Brill.

“It was a little bit tiring, but as long as the O-line is pushing, I’m gonna keep pushing,” said Walker. “We did a good job passing and a good job holding them up front.”

After making a drive into the red zone, the Ichabod offense went for it all on fourth and goal. Brill threw a pass to the front right corner of the end zone, aiming for senior receiver Jake Lebahn. Lebahn made a great grab in coverage but got tackled just short of the end zone as he stretched out, turning the ball over on downs at the PSU 1-yard line.

The Gorillas then went on a massive scoring drive, using up nearly five minutes on the clock as they marched across the field on a 12-play, 99-yard series.

Seven seemed to be a lucky number for Brill, as he returned the favor by tossing a 7-yard touchdown to sophomore wideout Drameagon Powers on the seventh play of the drive, tying the score at 14-14.

“They sat back in cover three or cover four and we were able to catch them,” said Brill. “We were on the same page and things kept going our way.”

The half ended on a weird note as the Ichabods kicked what appeared to be an onside kick, nailing a PSU blocker in the gut. The ball bounced back and Washburn recovered the ball. Schurig said that they were not trying to do anything fancy to recover the ball.

“We were trying to squib it and just run out the clock, and it hit their guy,” said Schurig. “If they recovered it then it gave them a chance to score. Then we said what the heck, we have 12 seconds. We might as well go for it.”

It looked as though the Ichabods might actually get points off of the blunder, as Lebahn made a 27-yard reception to move the ball into PSU territory. However, Brill threw his only interception of the game, trying to go deep into the end zone.

PSU went to work immediately in the second half, taking advantage of a 51-yard reception by Marques Nelson. Nelson was tripped up short of the touchdown marker, but his teammate Caleb Farabi put six on the board a few plays later with an acrobatic leap over the line and into the end zone.

Brill set the Washburn career touchdown record on the next drive, throwing a 31-yard touchdown strike to Lebahn four plays after throwing a 25-yarder to Powers, who made a gazelle-like leap to nab it from the air.

“That’s just hard work in the summer,” said Brill. “These guys were up here all summer; I know where they’re going to be. It’s finally coming around to where we’re comfortable in a game.”

The next drive, PSU pulled ahead of the Ichabods 28-21 on Mark Smith’s third rushing touchdown. The Ichabods responded quickly, and seven again seemed to be the lucky number as the entire scoring drive took only seven seconds with Brandon Walker breaking a 68-yard rush to end the third quarter.

“He’s been big for us all year at running back and wide receiver,” said Schurig. “You could really feel his enthusiasm and excitement and it was a big day for him. He stepped up huge.”

PSU later attempted its second punt of the day with 12:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, and Brill became Washburn’s all-time leader in passing yardage on a 68-yard toss to Jake Lebahn.

“I knew I had a good chance of being open,” said Lebahn. “When I caught it I was trying to run as fast as I can and then I got caught, but that was a big play because it ended up leading to another score. Our offense just clicked today and it was good to finally see that.”

Lebahn scored on a 6-yard touchdown strike later in that drive, making the score 35-28. That would be the final score as the Washburn defense stepped up large at the end of the game, forcing two interceptions to finish the game. The Ichabods improved their record to 6-2 in the conference and 7-3 overall.

“That was huge,” said Schurig. “Their offense is extremely hard to stop because they keep reeling off yards. Little yards, little yards, and then they get a big play. They’re very good at what they do and those turnovers are huge. That’s what won the game for us.”

Brandon Walker finished the game with 145 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries and also pulled in three receptions for 42 yards. Lebahn had a career-high 153 yards on six catches and also had two touchdowns. Brill, who broke two career records, ended the day going 16-24 for three touchdowns and 291 yards. Defensively, sophomore Zach Watkins stepped up big again as he led the team with 12 tackles, including a sack, and an interception at the end of the game to secure the victory.

“It’s a tribute to our seniors,” said Schurig. “Our senior class is awesome. We have 19 of them and they did a tremendous job.”