By Todd Fertig
Though at less than full strength, Topeka High found some positives to take away from a 51-13 non-league defeat at the hands of undefeated Liberal at Hummer Sports Park Thursday.
Trojan head coach Carlos Kelly was unavailable for the game for an undisclosed reason according to Topeka High administrators. Filling his place was assistant Brandon Mitchell.
The Trojans faced a number of obstacles on the night.
Not only was Kelly absent, but Zane Smith, starting quarterback the first two games of the season, was in street clothes on the sideline. Star defensive end BJ Canady exited the game early, apparently due to injury.
“We got a couple of big-game guys who weren’t able to go for us,” Mitchell said. “We were missing our starting linebacker and a starting defensive lineman. That really hurts defensively. And on offense, we were trying some different things out, had some different guys at different positions. We have quarterback issues with our quarterback being out.
“It’s just one of those things. You just live with what you have. We rolled with it.”
The Trojans battled to stay within striking distance, scoring early in the second half to cut Liberal’s lead to 21-7.
Junior Tevante Ewing bulled his way in from the 6-yard line, breathing life into the home team.
However, the Redskins struck back with three consecutive touchdowns to stretch their lead to 43-7 before Ewing put the Trojans on the board again, this time with a 2-yard carry.
Making his first ever start at quarterback in place of Smith was senior receiver CJ Ross.
Ross threw for 171 yards on 10 of 20 passing. He also rushed for 49 yards on 10 carries.
Junior Jayden Norman sparked the Trojan offense with 100 yards on three receptions. He also punted five times for a 40.6 average, helping the Trojans slow down the Redskin offense.
Defensively, the Trojans just couldn’t slow down the Redskins’ balanced offense.
The visitors rushed for 303 yards and passed for 253 more. Liberal’s senior quarterback J. Brooks Kappelman led the way with 102 yards on the ground in addition to completing 18 of 27 throws for all of the Redskins’ passing yardage. Senior receiver Zayden Martinez racked up 118 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions.
“On the defensive side, I thought we played well at times,” Mitchell said. “We came out thinking we could man up and play downhill to stop the run. And it worked out sometimes, and it didn’t sometimes. That’s kind of how football works.
“We knew that (Martinez) is a big, tall kid, a good receiver. He runs good routes. We thought athletically we could match up, and at times we did. But we couldn’t get the pressure on the quarterback to get the ball out of his hands a little sooner.”
The Trojans will reload for a trip to Emporia next Friday after playing consecutive Thursday night contests. Emporia stands at 0-2 with a game against Salina Central tomorrow.
“The guys came a long ways this week with it being on a short week again this week,” Mitchell said. “I think next week we’ll all be glad to play on a Friday where we get a full week of practice for Emporia.”
LIBERAL 51, TOPEKA HIGH 13
Liberal (3-0) 7 14 7 23 -- 51
Topeka High (0-3) 0 0 7 6 -- 13
Liberal – Schwindt 10 pass from Kappelman (Alonso kick)
Liberal – Martinez 15 pass from Kappelman (Alonso kick)
Liberal – Schwindt 10 run (Alonso kick)
Topeka High – Ewing 2 run (Mack kick)
Liberal – Porras 4 run (Alonso kick)
Liberal – Moreno 4 run (Kappelman run)
Liberal – Porras 18 run (Alonso kick)
Topeka High – Ewing 3 run (pass failed)
Liberal – Martinez 27 pass from Kappelman (Fieser pass from Kappelman)
Rushing -- Liberal: Porras 15-82, Moreno 6-28, Kappelman 12-102, Schwindt 6-63, Betts 5-28. Topeka High: Ewing 6-15, Ross 10-49, Kincaide 4-(minus)-2, Dingle 1-1, Norman 1-4, D. Johnson 1-0, Z. Johnson 2-30.
Passing -- Liberal: Kappelman 18-27-1 253. Topeka High: Ross 10-20-1 171.
Receiving -- Liberal: Schwindt 5-60, Martinez 7-118, Fieser 5-58, Lira 1-17. Topeka High: Ewing 3-26, Murph 1-18, Kincaide 3-27, Norman 3-100.
Punting -- Liberal: none. Topeka High: Norman 5-40.6.