Marc Marinelli jumped for joy on the sideline.
The Eisenhower coach buzzed around from player to player. He slapped helmets. He believed.
Bailey Strunk’s 37-yard double-reverse didn’t just give the Tigers a 34-14 lead with 11:41 left to play – it put them in a unique position to qualify for the state playoffs with a 2-7 record. Unfortunately for Eisenhower, the 34-28 win over rival Goddard will be the last game the Tigers play in 2014, with the Lions advancing out of Class 5A-District 8 on point differential despite the loss.
Goaddard will face Carroll next Friday in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
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“Not many teams get to finish on a win,” Marinelli said. “I would love to have another week with these kids but we will take what we’ve got.”
What Marinelli has is a group that nearly delivered the 5A State Playoffs its most improbable team.
After opening the contest on a Brett Huelsmann 93-yard kick return for a touchdown and adding a 51-yard field goal from senior Blake Lynch minutes later, the Tigers looked far from a team that entered the game with just a single win on their resume.
The hosts would extend the lead to 17 with 11:15 left in the second quarter on a 42-yard bomb from sophomore Mason Madzey to wideout Strunk.
After trading scores to end the half, Goddard (4-5, 2-1) finally got its offense moving in the third quarter, thanks in large part to workhorse tailback Dakota Driskill. The 205-pound back carried the ball 27 times for 197 yards, including the first 12 offensive plays of the second half for the Lions.
“You just have to keep going, you cannot stop,” Driskill said. “We just had to push ourselves to see how far we could go.”
After Driskill’s 3-yard touchdown plunge pulled the visitors back within 6 with 8:24 left in the third, Eisenhower went on to score 14 unanswered capped by Strunk’s reverse, giving the Tigers a 34-14 lead and a point differential.
Goddard would own the final 10 minutes of the contest, however, scoring twice in the game’s final period courtesy of two touchdown passes from quarterback Kyle Young, securing a berth in the postseason in the process.
“Our kids will show up and play,” Goddard coach Scott Vang said.
E – Huelsmann 93 kick return (Lynch kick)
E – Lynch 51 FG
E – Strunk 42 pass from Madzey (Lynch kick)
G – Harrington 24 pass from Young (Weaver kick)
E – Lynch 21 FG
G – Driskill 2 run (Weaver kick)
E – Madzey 1 run (Lynch kick)
E – Strunk 37 run (Lynch kick)
G – Driskill 22 pass from Young (Weaver kick)
G – Palmer 16 pass from Young (Weaver kick)
Rushing – Eisenhower: Fatkin 25-98, Ramey 5- (-8), Jenkins 9-61, Damon 1-0, Madzey 4-4, Strunk 1-37 Goddard: Driskill 27-196, Young 8-37, Palmer 4-13
Passing – Eisenhower: Madzey 4-10-93 Goddard: Young 5-16-91
Receiving – Eisenhower: Dinkel, 2-14, Strunk 2-79 Goddard: Harrington 2-41, Vang 1-12, Driskill 1-22, Palmer 1-16