Hornets come alive, take down Comets
■ Colcord blew a 13-0 lead before rallying in the fourth quarter.
KANSAS, Okla. — For nearly three-and-a-half quarters, the annual Battle of Delaware County played out like a classic high school football game on Thursday night.
Colcord raced out to a 13-0 halftime lead, only to watch Kansas come alive in the second half and take a 20-19 lead in the fourth quarter.
The final half of the fourth quarter, though, belonged to Colcord, which scored the game’s final three touchdowns to pull away for a 38-20 victory in front of a big crowd at Dee Neel Stadium.
The Hornets gave former Colcord standout Austin Martin a victory in his debut as head coach at his alma mater and the team’s sixth straight win against their arch-rival Comets.
“We found out just how tough they are and their will to win,” Martin said of his players. “I’m very proud of them. I thought they played their hearts out, even when they were down and things weren’t looking good. They kept fighting. I was very proud.
“You know, it’s not about me. It’s about the boys. I’m just proud of them. I can’t play. I can’t do any of that, but I’m proud of my boys and how they played, and we won.”
Things appeared to be going Colcord’s way midway through the third quarter when the Hornets scored a touchdown to go up 19-8, answering a Comets scoring drive to open the second half.
But things turned south for the Hornets the rest of the third quarter and into the fourth.
Kansas’ Jager Pifer intercepted a Raven Difrancisco pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown to bring Kansas within 19-14 with 1 minute, 6 seconds left in the third.
Then after stopping Colcord on defense, the Comets’ offense took over and drove 52 yards for a score, taking the lead 20-19 on a Daris Glass nine-yard touchdown run with 8:27 left in the game.
Colcord came back to life after falling behind.
The Hornets answered with a five-play scoring drive, including runs of 11 and 28 yards by junior Blake Gonzalez, who finished with a big night, and a 13-yard touchdown run by Difrancisco to take a 25-20 lead with 6:31 left.
“It was the simple things,” Martin said. “It was, ‘Let’s tackle better. Let’s block better. Let’s execute better.’ And when the boys started doing that, it turned around for us for the better.”
The Hornets forced a turnover on downs by the Comets with Difrancisco coming up with a pass breakup to get the ball back for the Colcord offense.
The Hornets then scored again to go up 31-20 with 2:34 left. Colcord drove down to the Kansas 28 and appeared to have bottled up Difrancisco on a run, but the crafty Hornets quarterback snuck out of the pile for a 28-yard touchdown.
Colcord put the finishing touches on its win with 59.1 seconds left when Jaden Chandler intercepted an Easton Wiggins pass and returned it 35 yards for the game’s final touchdown.
It was the fourth interception of the day for the Comets and the team’s seventh turnover.
“Mistakes hurt us,” said Kansas head coach Jimmy Dushane. “If we cut the turnovers in half, they don’t score at least twice. Right there’s the ballgame in my opinion. You can’t turn the ball over.”
Kansas lost a fumble on its opening drive at the Hornets’ 24-yard line, recovered by Colcord. Hornets Dustin Foreman and Colten Dale also recovered fumbles, while Stormy Odle, Difrancisco, Aidan Parker and Chandler all had interceptions.
Offensively, Colcord relied on its running game, which piled up 312 yards on 40 carries.
Gonzalez had long touchdown runs of 44 and 49 yards in the second quarter — both on sweeps — to give Colcord a 13-0 halftime lead. He finished with 17 carries for 232 yards and scored three touchdowns.
Difrancisco rushed for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
“Blake (Gonzalez), he’s a special boy,” Martin said. “He’s a 10.8 (seconds), 100-meter guy. He’s an extremely muscular fit kid, works hard, strong as an ox.
“Raven (Difrancisco), he’s real heady. He’s a big-time leader for our offense and defense. I’m proud of both of them so much. They’re a big reason we won tonight.”
Kansas finished with 245 yards of offense, of which 235 came on the ground. Glass rushed 29 times for 128 yards and two scores, while Wyatt Curtiss had 67 yards on three fullback blasts and Wiggins 37 yards on 11 carries.
Glass scored from the 2 to cap a nine-play, 61-yard Kansas drive to open the second half as the Comets got back in the game.
“I challenged my linemen in there (in the locker room) and they came out and responded really well,” Dushane said. “They came out and hit them in the mouth, and we moved the football pretty well. I was really pleased with how we moved it. We took over control of the game. We were able to make some good stops. We went and scored and made it a really good game.
“I’m so pleased with the way my kids thought. I couldn’t ask for any more heart.”
Colcord’s Chad Kendrick hauls in a pass as Kansas’ Chance Kolysko, bottom, makes the tackle as Jager Pifer, No. 7, converges on the play Thursday in both teams’ season opener at Dee Neel Stadium in Kansas. Colcord defeated Kansas 38-20.