All season long, the Salina Central defense rose to the occasion.
Andover’s brick wall was a tad bit better.
Quarterback Ashton Ngo ran for two scores, the defense blocked a punt and locked down Central on third downs, and the Trojans powered past the Mustangs, 28-7, in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs Friday at Salina Stadium. Salina Central ended the season with a 5-4 record.
Points came at a premium in the first half, although Salina Central had numerous chances. The average starting position for the Mustangs hovered around their own 40. On Central’s first drive, the Mustangs moved inside the 10, but Andover forced a turnover on downs after two rushing attempts by junior EZ Jackson out of the wildcat.
Andover’s average location was at its own 25. However, Andover opened the scoring with a 75-yard trick pass from wide receiver Max Smith to Harper Jones midway through the second quarter. Salina Central received the ball back and marched down the field. Sophomore quarterback Parker Kavanagh, who filled in for injured older brother Jackson, delivered a pair of big strikes, one to senior Logan Heigele on a 4th and 5, and the other to senior Quinton Stewart that set up the Mustangs with a goal-to-go at the nine. Senior Cooper Chard found the end zone on the next play, knotting up the score at 7-7 going into halftime.
Salina Central’s good field fortune went away in the second half as both defenses continued to slug it out. The turning point was on a punt block by Andover sophomore linebacker Chandler Goodnight, giving the Trojans the ball at the Central 29. A few plays later, Peyton Henry sprinted to the near side, scoring on a 7-yard run with 2:42 left in the third.
The final nail in the coffin came on a muffed punt. Andover’s Isaiah Maikori had the ball pinball five yards away from his body near the Andover 45. Somehow, he dove on the ball at the Mustangs 38. Ngo found a crease on the next play and went the distance for a 38-yard score with 9:56 to go. Ngo added to his TD total following a Mustang turnover on downs.
Andover had just 234 yards of offense with the starting quarterback not completing a pass. Ngo ran for 89 yards and two scores on 16 carries.
Salina Central had 265. Kavanagh threw for 201 yards with one interception. Heigele had 10 catches for 144 yards in his final game. Chard ran for 68 yards and a touchdown.