WAMEGO — Last season, the Wamego Red Raiders went 1-8.
After a 42-20 win over Abilene on Friday, the Red Raiders are one win away from claiming the North Central Kansas League title.
“We’re having a good season,” Wamego coach Dale Burkholder said. “We don’t think much about last year except that we started to build what we have this year, last year, with our conditioning and our systems. We’re winning and it’s good here at Wamego.”
The Red Raiders will go on the road next week to face a Clay Center team that was unbeaten going into Friday night, but got tripped up by Chapman, 19-8. Winning that game would make Wamego the league champion.
But first, the Red Raiders needed to win a game against an Abilene team that Burkholder called the “best 0-4 team in the state.”
No matter how good the Cowboys should be this year, the Wamego offense and defense owned the first half, outscoring Abilene 34-7.
The Red Raiders scored on their first three possessions, starting with a 9-yard run from quarterback Marshall Wethington. Matt Webb caught a 25-yard pass from Wethington for the second score, then Kameron Quinn capped a one-play drive with a 55-yard touchdown.
The only problem for the Red Raiders offensively in the first half came on the fourth drive of the game, when Wethington was picked off on a pass thrown outside of the pocket. The ball bounced out of the reach of its intended receiver, and was picked off by Abilene’s Killian Millner.
Wamego would go three-and-out on its next drive, but got the ball back when the Cowboys muffed the punt at their own 26-yard line. Wethington chucked a 26-yard pass to Trenton York on the next play, and the Red Raiders went ahead 27-0.
Wethington scored his second rushing touchdown on the next drive, punching it in from 1-yard out.
The Cowboys got into the endzone one time in the first half, with quarterback Andy Wilson finding Keil Kelly with a 47-yard pass.
Burkholder said he was happy with most of the first half.
“I was happy with the first quarter and a half, but I was not happy with the last half of the second quarter, and I told them that at halftime,” he said. “And then we came out and let them score a couple in the second half. It is tough when you get up that far to keep your intensity, but we have so many young guys that we didn’t hold that intensity - something to work on.”
The Red Raiders scored first in the second half, finishing the drive on a 4-yard run by Wethington to go up 42-7.
Abilene wasted no time driving down the field and scoring on a 10-yard pass from Wilson to Kelly. On the next drive, the Cowboys passed with ease again, with Wilson hitting Sherbert for an 18-yard score.
But the Cowboys failed to convert a fourth down at their on 33 on the next drive, and were intercepted in their own territory on the final two drives after that.
Wilson opened the second half completing his first eight passes before getting picked off on his final two. He finished with 250 yards passing, while Kelly caught seven passes for 144 yards.
Burkholder said his team has to do a better job of putting pressure on the opposing quarterback.
“We had a problem putting pressure on their quarterback and he threw the ball well,” he said. “We got to get better. We can’t let people score and almost make a game of it, but we did some good things.”
Wethington finished the game 14-of-24 for 205 yards and five total touchdowns. Quinn eclipsed the century mark on the ground with 14 carries for 108 yards.