BY TRISTAN SASSE
On Saturday, September 30, the #14 Fort Hays State Tiger football team traveled to St. Charles, Missouri to take on the Lindenwood Lions. A year ago, FHSU defeated the Lions, 37-6.
Through four weeks, Fort Hays had outscored opponents 145-44. FHSU was outscoring opponents by over 25 points a game entering Saturday. The Tigers also only had one game decided by 7 points or less.
Early in the game, Fort Hays landed on the scoreboard first. Kenneth Iheme found the end zone. Lindenwood’s Najee Jackson answered shortly after with a rushing touchdown of his own. Towards the end of the first quarter, Jacob Mezera found Monterio Burchfield for a 3-yard touchdown. After one, FHSU led 14-7.
Even with early season success, the Tigers found themselves struggling in the second quarter. After a pair of Lindenwood touchdown passes by Jackson to Desean Warren, Fort Hays faced their first halftime deficit of the season, 14-21. A controversial Charles Tigner fumble and penalties on the Tigers had a significant impact on FHSU in the opening half.
The Tigers didn’t take long to strike in the second half. The half began with a four-play drive that covered 60 yards in less than two minutes. Mezera found Burchfield again, this time for a 48-yard touchdown and his second score of the game. On the ensuing drive, Lindenwood’s Shakeem Wharton answered with a rushing touchdown from 5 yards out, and the Lions reclaimed the lead.
Late in the third quarter, Mezera found Burchfield to complete the hat trick. The 76-yard strike completed a 5 play, 92-yard drive in just over two minutes, giving Burchfield his third touchdown on the afternoon. Momentum continued to shift throughout the second half.
The fourth quarter began with a missed 34-yard field goal by Lindenwood’s Travis Spraul. Shortly after, the Tigers regained possession and Iheme fumbled in Lindenwood territory. The Lions recovered, but failed to capitalize and were forced to punt.
Minutes later, the Tigers drove down the field and finished an 8 play, 70-yard drive with a 27-yard field goal by Brandon Brown. With just under 8 minutes to play, FHSU led 31-28. On the ensuing drive, Mezera underthrew a receiver and was intercepted in the Lindenwood end zone.
When Lindenwood regained control, Goodland native Kolt Trachsel followed with his first career interception. Trachsel scampered 25 yards and scored his first-ever touchdown with the Tigers. Lindenwood’s Deantrell Prince caught a touchdown reception with a minute left, but FHSU would go on to win, 38-35.
Offensively, the Tigers rushed for nearly 200 yards. Kenneth Iheme had 30 carries for 174 yards and a touchdown. Monterio Burchfield led the Tigers with 173 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Iheme added 58 receiving yards. Jacob Mezera completed 25 of 35 attempts for 294 yards and three touchdowns. FHSU also had three turnovers on offense. Mezera threw an interception in the fourth quarter, while Charles Tigner and Iheme lost fumbles earlier in the game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jose Delgado led all players with 14 tackles, including a sack. Doyin Jibowu followed with nine tackles and Tanner Hoekman had eight.
For the first time since 1983, Fort Hays starts the season 5-0. Lindenwood falls to 2-3. The Tigers will return home next week for homecoming against Pittsburg State. A season ago, FHSU defeated PSU, 54-41.