Second half surge leads Washburn football to overtime victory over Fort Hays


Jesse Bruner

Jump around: Washburn celebrates after the game winning touchdown Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, at Yager Stadium in Topeka, Kan. Washburn defeated Fort Hays State 23-20 in overtime.

After dropping last weeks game against Emporia State, Washburn football returned to Yager Stadium on Oct. 9, for the Hall of Fame game against Fort Hays State University. The Ichabods would look to stay undefeated at home on the year in the matchup of 3-2 teams.

Washburn was aggressive early on running the ball and using all for downs but was stopped inside the Fort Hays 30 yard-line after attempting a 4th and 13 play due to an injured kicker and windy conditions. The Tigers responded with a balanced 15 play drive ending in a touchdown and 7-0 lead.

Each team traded punts to begin the second quarter, with the Ichabods once again getting into opponents’ territory before stalling. A second consecutive punt by Washburn set up Fort Hays to begin its next drive with a 55-yard pass.

“You got to hand it to Hays, they did a great job defensively. They were knifing through our line. We haven’t had problems like that all year where we had negative plays,” said Head Coach Craig Schurig.

The Tigers advanced inside the ten-yard line and were forced to attempt a field goal, which was blocked by senior defensive back Marquise Manning to prevent the score.

The Ichabods drove down into opponents’oppenents territory but once again were not able to score before half. While the offense struggled, the defense stepped up, keeping a normally high-powered offense down.

“The guys (defense) did a great job, Hays does a lot of good stuff on offense, a lot of tricky things you got to prepare for, things you don’t see every game and our guys responded really well,” said Washburn Co-Defensive Coordinator Zach Watkins, who was named to the Washburn Athletics Hall of Fame at halftime of the game.

In the third quarter Washburn utilized a pass interference penalty on a pass intended for senior wide receiver James Letcher Jr. to set up a 35-yard touchdown throw right down the middle of the field to Letcher from senior quarterback Mitch Schurig. The extra point from freshman kicker Trenton Brehm tied the game at 7.

“We were down in the first half, didn’t have a lot of energy and came out in the second half ready to fight and ready to play,” said Letcher Jr.

The next drive for Fort Hays started deep in its own territory but potent passing allowed them to move down the field quickly. A breakdown in secondary coverage led to the Tigers completing a wide-open 36-yard pass to make it a 14-7 game. Washburn continued the scoring with an eight-play drive setting up a 35-yard field goal from Brehm before the end of the quarter.

The fourth quarter began with a big third down sack by senior defensive end Malik Fall to stop Fort Hays drive before it could begin. The Ichabods next drive was short, quick, and effective as they needed only six plays to score. The big play came from junior wide receiver Peter Afful who took the top off the defense and leaped over his defender before running in for a 65-yard touchdown. The score gave Washburn its first lead of the game, 17-14 with just over ten minutes to play.

Each team traded punts before the Tigers took over with just over five minutes remaining. A big third down throw of 35 yards gave the drive life early as they moved the ball down into the redzone. The Ichabods defense held firm, with strong coverage on the back end, forcing a field goal attempt from 31 yards, which was converted, tying the score at 17 as regulation came to an end.

Fort Hays started with the ball in overtime and gained only nine yards in three plays, forcing a 33-yard field goal, giving the Ichabods an opportunity to win. The offense would not leave the door open as they would walk off on a diving catch by Letcher Jr. in the endzone to finishfinsh the game at 23-20.

“I just ran a simple post, the corner was lined up outside of me and my quarterback, who is a great quarterback, checkedquarterback checked me to a different call, so I ran that, and we made it happen,” said Fletcher Jr.

In the air Schrig ended the day with 282 yards and three touchdowns. On, on the outside,outsides Afful recorded 105 yards and a touchdown and Letcher Jr. finished with 56 yards and two scores. On the ground sophomore running back Taylon Peters led the way with 68 yards on 15 carries.
Defensively junior defensive back Kevin Neal Jr. made ten tackles on the day with junior safety Peyton Lane recording another nine. Up front Malick Fall finished with three tackles including the seven yard sack.

“That was fun, we haven’t had one of those in awhile. We haven’t had a walk-off in awhile so that was cool,” said Craig Schurig.

The win moved Washburn to 4-2 on the year as they get ready to host Northwest Missouri State on Saturday Oct. 16.