Eudora defense, Ballock end dream season for Piper

By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com

The greatest season in the history of Piper Pirates football ended in the same city it began - Eudora, Kan.

The Eudora Cardinals defeated Piper 21-7 in the "final four" of the 4A state playoffs, using tough defense to pave the way. It was also Cardinals quarterback Andrew Ballock's near one-man effort on both sides of the ball that helped win the game.

His 52-yard run midway through the first quarter set up the opening score of the game. Following a 10-yard run by Ballock, running back Gabe Cleveland punched it in from two yards out to give Eudora a 6-0 lead.

For Piper's offense, it was not a quick start. Eudora held Piper without a first down most of the first quarter.

"They are an awfully good defensive team," said Chris Brindle, head coach of the Pirates. "We didn't get a first down on our first three series."

Piper's defense did a good job keeping the Pirates in the game.

Finally in the second quarter, Piper put a drive together that was capped off by a 39-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Eikenbary to senior Sean Eskina.

With a 7-6 lead and after stopping Eudora on a drive, it looked as if Piper was in position to seize momentum entering halftime. 

However, Eikenbary was stripped of the ball inside Eudora territory late in the first half. As good teams do, Eudora made Piper pay.

Ballock completed a deep pass with under a minute left to go in the first half to set the Cardinals up in scoring position. Ballock failed to score on a quarterback sneak, but was able to ground the ball with just 0.8 seconds left.

Cleveland scored his second touchdown of the game to give Eudora it's last lead of the game.

"We got a couple of things that went against us," Brindle said. "You're not going to get all the calls and breaks."

Another bad break happened early in the third quarter.

Having forced a Eudora turnover, Piper was driving to tie the game at 14. However, Eikenbary tossed an interception that ended the drive.

And again, Eudora made Piper pay. Ballock scored from just outside the five yard line with 6:25 left in the third quarter.

That was the last score of the game.

Ballock was the most valuable player of the night for Eudora. Along with engineering three touchdown drives at the quarterback position, he had two interceptions on the evening.

Eudora scored 14 points off of three Piper turnovers - which was clearly the difference in the game. Overall this season, Eudora's defense has allowed just 100 points in 13 games. In the past six games alone, the Cardinals have allowed just 29 points.

The loss stings. However, with Piper blending in some young talent with a great senior class, the future could be exciting for the Pirates.

"This run will help us with building momentum for the program," Brindle said. "There were guys this season who weren't so sure about playing but did. Winning the Chanute game in front of a lot of people was huge for us."

Piper won its first sectional and regional championship ever. They finish the season 10-3.