The Emporia State football team fell 9-7 with four minutes left to go in the opening quarter to the 8-2 Washburn Ichabods on Saturday. From there, the Hornets stung Washburn with 41 unanswered points as they rolled to a 55-23 victory in the Turnpike Tussle in Topeka. The win concluded a 9-2 regular season for the Hornets, and they regained the overall series record over Washburn, 52-51.
Senior linebacker and business administration major Ben Carlson said the Hornets and the Ichabods share the “longest Division II rivalry in college football.”
“We have lost the last eight (games),” Carlson said. “(Head Coach Garin Higgins) hadn’t beat these guys yet, so this was just a great team win, and we needed it.”
But the Hornets, who had come off two straight losses, had a rough start. They fumbled on their first possession, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run six plays later for the Ichabods.
Thirteen plays and 75 yards later, senior quarterback Tyler Eckenrode locked in a 17-yard strike to junior receiver Ray Ray Davis to secure the Hornets’ first lead of the game, 7-6. The Ichabods regained the lead for the last time with a 30-yard field goal, leading 9-7.
From there, the 41 unanswered points for ESU were due in large part to a stellar defensive outing.
“Our defense really gave us some momentum with some key turnovers,” Higgins said. “They were really playing with a lot of confidence.”
Their next touchdown came off an interception by senior defensive back Kevin Gaddis that set the Hornets up for another easy score, this one by sophomore wide receiver Austin Willis off a pass from Eckenrode. The Hornets led 24-9 at halftime.
Coming into the second half, Eckenrode hit senior wide receiver Shjaun Richardson for a 22-yard.
After a forced punt, junior halfback Josh Klumpe scored on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Eckenrode to move the score 38-9.
A quick fumble by Washburn on the next series set the Hornets up once again in field position. The run ended with a 27-yard field goal by freshman punter and kicker Eli Kuhns to improve the Hornets lead 48-9 with six minutes left to go in the game.
Washburn managed two final touchdowns for a total 23 points overall, but it wasn’t enough to land them a win.
The Hornets’ win not only improved their overall series record over against the Ichabods, but it also earned them a postseason bid. This year, the Hornets will play in the post season for the first time since 2003 in the Kanza Bowl Nov. 25 against Texas A&M Kingsville.
“To be a part of the senior class that put this series up in our favor is special, but like we said all year, we are not done,” Eckenrode, management information systems major, said.