Tony Crough was not shy when describing how the battle at the point of attack went last time Andover played Eisenhower.
He used words like “dominated” and manhandled” to describe why the Trojans lost the first meeting two weeks ago in the regular season.
But those words could have described Andover on Friday night in rematch in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs, as Andover responded to its coaches’ challenge with a 35-14 victory over Eisenhower at home.
The No. 7 seed Trojans (6-3) will advance to the second round of the playoffs to face Crough’s former team in Great Bend next Friday on the road, while the season came to an end for Eisenhower (3-6).
“I told the guys, ‘If we’re a playoff team and if we’re going to be a good team, we can’t play soft,’ ” Crough said. “Eisenhower is a tough football team and if we wanted to be the real deal, then we had to beat a team like this.”
Andover’s defense lacks size up front and at times has struggled to match the physicality of teams like Eisenhower.
On Friday, thanks to a crucial change in the scheme by Crough and a change in mindset from the players, Andover was able to reverse its fortunates.
“The entire week coach was really talking Eisenhower up and it was firing us up,” Andover senior receiver Evan Bell said. “We came into this game with a lot of fire and intensity. We really wanted this rematch and this is why.”
All season Andover had played an odd-man front, relying on its linebackers to fly around and keep rushing attacks contained. Last time against Eisenhower, the Tigers’ offensive line was too dominant in dealing with the three linemen.
This time Andover added a fouth defensive lineman to join Connor Schillings, Tyler Wright, and TJ Sisson on its front for the first time this season, so it could put a defender over each of Eisenhower’s guards.
“It gave our linebackers more freedom and then we were pretty much gambling every time and sending everybody where we thought they were going to run it,” Crough said.
Eisenhower finished with 310 yards, a fine total, but Andover felt like it was a victory considering it took the Tigers 71 plays to amass it.
Schillings said it was a combination of the scheme change and the intensity brought by Andover’s defense that provided the biggest difference from the first meeting.
“Nobody on our defense weighs over 200 pounds, so it’s not like we have any big bodies to work with,” Schillings said. “We just brought it tonight and threw something new at them and I guess they didn’t expect it because it worked in our favor.”
After the teams traded scores in the first quarter, Andover took control of the momentum — and ultimately the game — during a 5-minute span late in the second quarter when it scored three straight touchdowns to build a 28-7 lead.
When quarterback Chase Oberg found his rhythm, so did Andover. Oberg completed four straight passes for 71 yards, capped by an 18-yard touchdown pass to his favorite target, Evan Bell, to begin the rally.
Andover’s defense forced a three-and-out and on its next offensive play, Robert Bundy burst through a gaping hole in the heart of Eisenhower’s defense and sprinted untouched 52 yards for a touchdown.
The final dagger came two minutes later when Eisenhower was backed up to its goal line and fumbled a handoff, which set up a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Oberg for a 21-point rally that would alter the rest of the game.
“Our whole team showed a lot of toughness tonight,” Oberg said. “Major props to our defense. Those are some bad boys. They stepped up the entire game and I thought that’s how we pulled it out. I’m so proud of this team.”
Once again Eisenhower dominated the time of possession, controlling over 31 minutes of the clock, but this time it wasn’t able to finish its drives.
The most devastating example of this came in the third quarter when Eisenhower took over, down 28-14, with 7:49 to go in the quarter.
Eisenhower would piece together a 17-play drive and register five first downs, taking up over eight minutes of the clock, but failing to come away with any points after two straight penalties put its predominantly rushing attack out of a manageable distance.
While this did limit the Andover offense to 90 yards in the second half, Eisenhower could not turn any of its four second-half possessions into points.
“Andover did a great job of taking away what we do best,” Eisenhower coach Marc Marinelli said. “It just breaks my heart to not get another week with my seniors.”
Bell continued to torch every secondary that attempts to single-cover him, as he added 10 catches, 145 yards, and two touchdowns to his ledger this season. Bundy added 156 total yards and two touchdowns and Oberg threw for 241 yards.
Eisenhower was led by freshman Parker Wenzel with 113 yards rushing, while Tanner King finished with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
And now Crough must turn his attention to the team he just left.
“It’s toing to be a tough one for me, no matter how it ends,” Crough said. “It’s going to be pretty bittersweet for me either way.”
A—E. Bell 28 pass from Oberg (Hammar kick)
E—Wenzel 25 run (Greening kick)
A—E. Bell 18 pass from Oberg (Hammar kick)
A—Bundy 52 run (Hammar kick)
A—Oberg 1 run (Hammar kick)
E—King 32 pass from Madzey (Greening kick)
A—Bundy 31 run (Hammar kick)
Rushing: Eisenhower, Wenzel 18-113, Madzey 19-66, Trudo 7-20, Moore 3-14, Loveland 2-3; Andover, Bundy 19-101, Oberg 7-20.
Passing: Eisenhower, Madzey 9-27-1-94; Andover, Oberg 19-35-1-241.
Receiving: Eisenhower, King 6-77, Trudo 1-8, Moore 1-6, Wenzel 1-6; Andover, E. Bell 10-145, Bundy 6-55, Brown 1-21, M. Bell 1-12, Smith 1-8.