By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
The Piper Pirates football program has officially taken the next step up in becoming one of the best 4A programs in the State of Kansas.
For the first time in the history of Piper High School, the Pirates are regional champions in football, defeating Baldwin 27-21 on the road Saturday night.
The Pirates used some big plays on defense and the passing game to take the lead - and eventually hold off a strong Baldwin team from a late comeback attempt.
Quarterback Tanner Eikenbary connected on a 35-yard touchdown pass to senior Sean Eskina to cut an early 7-0 deficit to 7-6, following the missed extra point. Baldwin responded with a 29-yard touchdown of their own, extending the lead to 14-6.
Matt McDonald's one-yard touchdown, which was followed up by an Eikenbary two-point conversion, tied the game at 14.
Sophomore Colton Beebe would set up the next Piper scored with his foot and his defense. Beebe drilled a 67-yard punt to flip field position. Later on, he sacked Baldwin's quarterback and caused a fumble.
From there, McDonald and the Pirates offense took advantage. He scored from six yards out to give Piper its first lead of the game. The touchdown was McDonald's sixth score of the postseason.
Near the end of the first half, another senior made a huge play.
Senior cornerback Keaton Cofield picked off a pass to end a Baldwin drive. Cofield's interception came in the end-zone, preserving a 21-14 halftime lead for the Pirates.
A Baldwin fumble set up Piper's final score, one that turned out to be the game-winner. Eikenbary threw his second touchdown of the game, extending Piper's lead to 27-14. The Bulldogs responded, cutting the lead down to 27-21.
But it was Cofield and the Pirates defense that had the final laugh.
Cofield made his second interception of the game late in the fourth quarter, allowing the Piper offense to kill some of the clock. After a Beebe punt pinned Baldwin inside its own 20, the Pirates turned Baldwin over on downs to earn the victory.
With the win, Piper improves to 9-2 on the season. They've won five games in a row, clinching their third straight district and bi-district titles in the process.