A patchwork Concordia Panther football team battled unbeaten Wamego for nearly a half before things came unraveled.
Concordia was without starting fullback Skyler Hittle and starting running backs Drake Hake and Shea Crum.
The three are also defensive starters.
The shorthanded Panthers were locked up in a scoreless tie with Wamego when the Red Raiders scored two touchdowns in the final 1:56 of the first half to go up 14-0.
Taking advantage of four Concordia turnovers, Wamego stretched the lead to 30-0.
The Panthers got a fumble return for touchdown by Zach Kyle with 2:35 to play in a 30-7 loss to the Red Raiders in the their home and North Central Kansas League opener Friday night at Harold M. Clark Stadium.
“I thought we battled the entire game. We made mistakes, but even with the mistakes we continued to battle,” Concordia coach Tim Lambert said.
The loss drops Concordia to 0-3 overall.
“All three teams we have played haven’t lost a game yet. We have played three pretty good defensive teams,” Lambert said.
Wamego improves to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in league play.
Kyle’s score was the first touchdown scored against the Red Raiders this season. They have outscored their fist three opponents 116-7.
Hittle suffered a foot injury in the season opener against Beloit. Hake missed his second straight game with a groin injury, and Crum sat out with a deep thigh bruise.
“We decided right before the game not to play him, get better,” Lambert said.
Lambert would move Kyle from quarterback to runningback and inserted sophomore Ethan Bechard at quarterback.
Both teams struggled to move the ball in the early going.
Concordia did put together a nine-play drive in the first quarter, but sophomore fullback Karter Steinle was stopped for no gain on a fourth down and one at the Wamego 41-yard line.
The Red Raiders went 50 yards in 12 plays, but it was Concordia that came up with a fourth down stop.
Trenton York was thrown for a one-yard loss on fourth and seven at the Concordia 9-yard line.
Concordia would have to punt, and Wamego marched 55 yards in 10 plays, overcoming a holding penalty, and York scored on fourth down from the 1-yard line with 1:56 to play in the first half.
A Concordia fumble gave Wamego the ball back at the Panther 21, and Red Raiders scored on a 7-yard run with 10 seconds to play in the half to make it 14-0.
Logan Stoddard would intercept a Bechard pass early in the third quarter, and Wamego got the ball at the Concordia 20-yard line.
The Panthers limited the Red Raiders to a 22-yard field goal by Kyler Alderson that upped the lead to 17-0.
“I thought our defense played well enough to win the game. Our offense, we have to get better,” Lambert said.
On the possession following the field goal, three consecutive penalties backed Concordia up inside its own 5-yard line.
Wamego recovered a fumbled handoff at the Panther four.
Alderson scored on a first down on a 4-yard run, and the Red Raiders led 24-0 with 5:34 to play in the third quarter.
Wamego added a 13-yard touchdown run by Alderson in the fourth quarter, and led 30-0.
Concordia’s lone score came on the 61-yard fumble return by Kyle with 2:35 remaining in the game. Logan Higbee kicked the extra point to make it 30-7.
The Panthers finished with 97 yards rushing and 15 yards passing.
“We are limited in some things we can do. It is just a matter of execution and getting better in what we can do, and not putting the ball on the ground,” Lambert said.
Steinle led the Panthers with 33 yards rushing on 13 carries.
Kyle added 20 yard on 10 carries.
Wamego rushed for 138 yards.
Alderson completed 20 of 34 passes for 167 yards.
Concordia will host Abilene in a league game on Friday night.