ALTAMONT — It was muddy, it was messy, but the Chanute Blue Comets captured their first SEK league title in a decade, winning over the Labette County Grizzlies 20-8 Friday night.
There was a celebratory romp in the mud after the win, with even the coaches joining in. Senior captains Ty Bowman, Tyler Davis, Jaden Costin and Jacob McDonald were elated to capture the elusive title.
“It is freaking amazing,” McDonald said. “It was a tough game, but we stuck together as a team and pulled it off.”
“I feel like a champion,” Davis said.
Going into the game, both Chanute and Labette were undefeated in SEK play. Bowman knew it was going to be a tough game.
“We knew they were going to give us their best game,” he said. “We knew we had to perform at our best.”
The Comets were picked to win the league title in a preseason coaches’ poll. First-year head coach Clete Frazell admitted he felt pressured by the expectations.
“I was pretty mad at the coaches for setting the bar so high in my first year,” he said. “I’m so glad for this team that we got it. Our seniors have busted their butts, so it’s really special to win it in their senior year.”
League championship on the line or not, Frazell wanted the team to focus on winning the game, just like any other week. However, Costin admitted the championship was at the forefront of their minds.
“All we could think about was that title,” he said. “It was a mental block for us in that first half.”
The Comets and Grizzlies ground it out in the first half with a defensive showdown that left both teams scoreless. Both teams held each other to less than 50 total yards in the first quarter. Senior Briley Peavy made a valiant effort to get the offense started in the opening quarter with a signature successful fake punt, but ultimately the Comets could not move the ball down the field.
Bowman intercepted a pass in the second quarter from Grizzly quarterback Kooper Peak, only to turn it over on the very next play with a fumble after a run attempt. Junior Garrett Almond was able to bat down a pass from Peak in the second quarter and CHS picked up some momentum, with a six-yard gain from to their own 27-yard line. Peavy got the first down to the 34 and Davis added an additional eight yards to march them to midfield. Bowman threw a pass to Almond that put the Comets in Labette territory on the 39-yard line. Labette senior Caleb Haggard took Bowman down for a loss, making it a long second and 16 with just a minute left to play in the half. Bowman ran for 10, but the promising drive ended in a punt from Peavy. Peak took a knee to end the first half, still scoreless.
Frazell said the team made several adjustments at halftime and encouraged his troops to relax, as they had been down at the half multiple times.
“The coaches stayed positive,” Bowman said. “They adjusted what needed corrected and we came out a more physical team in the second half.”
McDonald didn’t think the team members were themselves in the first half.
“We didn’t play Chanute football at all,” he said.
The third quarter began with a kick return from sophomore Jackson Coombs to the 38-yard line, but the Comets were unable to capitalize. A long pass from Peak to Nathan Smith put the Grizzlies deep into Comet territory at the 18. Labette quickly made it a first and goal. The Comet defense made a stand with Tuker Davis hitting for a loss, but Trent Brock was right back at it with a three-yard carry for the first score of the game and carried again for the two-point conversion. With just under eight minutes left in the third quarter, it was 8-0 with the Grizzlies on top.
The Comets ground up the field to answer with a fortuitous penalty on LCHS for roughing the passer, putting Chanute on the 22-yard line. Facing a long three and 12, Bowman completed a pass to sophomore Kam Koester for a fourth and two. The offensive line drove through the Grizzlies for Bowman to put Chanute on the board. A two-point conversion ended in a Grizzly interception, making the score 8-6 with just a minute left in the third.
Tyler Davis recovered a Labette fumble early in the fourth to put the offense on the field at the LCHS 45. A Bowman to Peavy pass got CHS all the way down to the five-yard line. Peavy made the second score for the Comets and completed the PAT to put Chanute on top 14-8 with less than 12 minutes in the game.
Coombs recovered the kickoff from Chanute senior kicker Jacob Adams, putting the offense on the field in enemy territory at the 30. Carries from Davis and Bowman led to another fourth and two push that was successful to put the Comets within 18 yards of another goal. Another score from Peavy was called back after a flag on Chanute for holding. Bowman called Almond’s number again for the first down before running the ball in himself from the eight-yard line. The point after attempt run was again no good for the Comets, for a score of 20-8 with 6:49 left in the game. Labette made its last offensive charge to the Comets’ one yard line, but Chanute was able to make a stand and hold them to take over on downs to win the game. Frazell was very impressed with his team’s determination.
“The grit these guys have is just incredible,” he said. “Getting that stop on the one-yard line for a four and out. That shows how tough we are. That is who this team is.”
Frazell noted that in every league game they have played, Chanute has been slow to start and picked up steam in the second half.
“All of these league games have been tight, but we made it happen,” he said.
He attributed some of the offensive struggles to the field conditions. LCHS is a grass field that was more mud than anything else after recent rain.
“The offense couldn’t cut or do a lot of the things they do and they struggled,” he said. “We knew going in that it would be a defensive game.”
The senior captains were proud of how the team stayed together, even when things didn’t look good.
“Our team was committed and we stayed together,” Tyler Davis said. “We stayed fighting, no matter what.”
The league championship game was the culmination of the regular season for the Comets, with playoffs beginning next week against an unknown opponent. Frazell anticipates that the 7-1 team will play at home.
“We will prepare for whomever, like we always do,” he said.
LC — Trent Brock, 3 yard run. Brock run. 7:45
CHS — Ty Bowman, 1 yard run. Pass failed. 1:12
CHS — Briley Peavy, 5 yard run. Bowman to Peavy. 11:52
CHS — Bowman, 8 yard run. Run failed. 6:48