There is just something about November football in Kansas that makes it feel like more than a game. That was the feeling you got as you entered Axtell, Kansas on Friday night as the Eagles prepared to take on Frankfort. The smell of pre-game barbecues, the faces painted with both Axtell Blue and the familiar Silver Wildcat logo from Frankfort and the outstanding crowd noise coming from both sidelines, with families and community members of each school from goal line to goal line. A remarkable atmosphere as everyone knew just what was on the line.
In times like this, it's easy to get caught up in the moment. The task for both of these football teams was to break through the noise and just play football and from the word "Go" it looked like Axtell took that task to the best of their ability, just one offensive play into the game, Landon Schmitz carried the ball 65 yards for the touchdown to go up 6-0.
Then it was the Axtell defense's turn to impress, a 3 and out to force a short field resulted in a 17 yard Brandon Schmelzle rushing score to go up 12. Schmitz would earn an interception on the next Frankfort drive and after a 40 yard screen pass to Eli Broxterman, Axtell was in prime position to go up 3 scores. One play later, Schmelzle found his way into the endzone once again this time from 15 yards out to go up 18-0 just 4 minutes in to the ballgame.
In total, Schmelzle would carry the ball 16 times for a team-high 88 yards. 88 yards seems far from Schmelzle's average but when you consider that 5 of the 16 rushes finished in the end zone, I think Coach Eric Detweiler and Schmelzle himself, won't mind the dip in total yardage on the night.
That's right Schmelzle rushed for 5 touchdowns, the longest a 24 yarder, in the victory. Seemingly earning every yard with a defender on his back or at his ankles, Schmelzle was able to use key blocks from big guys up front to cash in multiple times. Brandon was also 12 of 13 passing for over 230 yards, with nearly half of that going to Eli Broxterman who finished with 101 yards on 7 receptions.
Frankfort was able to get their lone touchdown just before half on a broken play from Quarterback Wes Anderson to Brock Armstrong who ran it in from 7 yards out to make it 44-6 after 2 quarters. Credit Frankfort, they showed no signs of quit in this game, and getting on the board just before the break, put a little bit of wind back in the Wildcats sails.
Frankfort opened the 2nd half with the ball, but Axtell was once again able to intercept Anderson for the 2nd time in the game and to no one's surprise Schmelzle had his number called once again as he would end the game on a 4-yard touchdown run to put Axtell in the state title game again, after a 52-6 victory.
Game time for Saturday's state title game is 3:30. Axtell goes for their 3rd straight state title, their 39th win in a row in the game played at Fischer Field in Newton.
Frankfort finished the season 9-3, all three losses coming to teams in state title games on Saturday (2 losses to Axtell, the other to 8-man D-1 representative, Lyndon. A terrific season for the Wildcats who return, the majority of their roster in 2024 but will have to find a replacement for long-time starter Brock Armstrong. Look for Frankfort to be in a great position again next year, I have a feeling this is just the start of these two battling for years to come and if they are as good in the future as they have in the past couple of years, sign me up.