OLATHE, Kan. – Tristan Askan (Hopi/Navajo) threw for 265 yards and 4 touchdowns as he led the Eagles to a 34-27 victory over the MidAmerica Nazarene Pioneers on Saturday afternoon in Olathe, Kan.
The victory was the first for the Eagles (3-6, 1-2) over the Pioneers (3-6, 0-3) since the teams met for the first time way back in 2001 when Avila picked up a 10-7 victory in overtime, again in Olathe. Saturday’s victory tastes a little sweeter for the Eagles as it was the last time the two teams will ever meet as members of the Heart of America Athletic Conference, with the Eagles transitioning into the KCAC beginning in 2018.
Askan, who’s status was up in the air all week after injuring his leg against No. 2 Baker last weekend at The Z, said that the team had a gameplan all week that they believed in, and that they just executed well on offense all day.
“It feels great, we knew we had an opportunity to go in and get a win and that was our goal the whole week.”
Askan also talked about how it came down to a game-time decision for him to play, but he gave credit to the coaches, trainers and his teammates for Saturday’s win.
“The coaches and trainers deserve all the credit for getting me ready and cleared to play today,” Askan said. “It was tough for the team this week not knowing who the quarterback would be with all the injuries, but it’s late in the year so that is just football. I can’t say enough about how prepared everyone was today, and I would not have had success without them building me up. We executed the game plan that we practiced all week, and I’m so proud of the team that we got this victory.”
Askan, who made just his third career start on Saturday, completed 23 of his 33 pass attempts for 265 yards and a career-high four touchdown passes. He also finished with zero interceptions for the first time in his young career, and he finished Saturday’s game against the Pioneers with an efficiency rating of 177.3, also a career best. Through his first three games, Askan has completed 64 percent of his passes for 652 yards and six scores.
The Eagles jumped out to an early lead when Askan found Terrell Abernathy from five yards out with 12:21 to play in the first quarter, and then they built a 12-3 lead when Raven Josiah broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run. The Eagles went for two after Josiah’s score, but the Pioneers denied the attempt.
Saturday’s game went back-and-forth all day, with the Pioneers erasing the 12-3 deficit with three straight scores, including a field goal and two touchdowns to build a 20-12 lead late in the second quarter.
The Pioneers were on their way to another score to build a two possession lead, but senior Zeff Lewey made a brilliant play, forcing a fumble and then recovering it to give the Eagles possession at the 31-yard line with just over two minutes to play in the half. Askan and the offense then flew down the field, capping off a six play, 69-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown reception by Asante Anthony. Askan found Anthony again on the two-point attempt to tie the game at 20 with 58 seconds to play in the half.
The Eagles stopped the Pioneers on the first drive of the second half by blocking a 33-yard field goal attempt, and then the Theo Berry show began as the senior wideout made a couple of great grabs on the ensuing possession, including a 7-yard touchdown catch to give the Eagles a 27-20 lead. Berry finished the day with eight catches for 105 yards and two scores, his second two touchdown day of the season.
The Pioneers tied the game with a touchdown of their own with 4:18 to play in the third quarter when Kobe Hardin found the end zone from one yard out to cap a 14 play, 67-yard drive.
Askan found Theo Berry again in the fourth quarter for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown with 11:04 to play. Askan hit Berry for an 18-yard touchdown, his fourth and final touchdown pass on the day.
Avila’s defense made multiple stands in the fourth quarter, including a big third down stop to force a long field goal attempt early in the quarter, as well as an interception by Ryon Holmes at the 5-yard line with 3:54 to play, keeping the Pioneers out of the end zone with Avila clinging to a seven point lead. The Eagles also got the final stop with just over a minute to play, forcing a turnover on downs on a 4th-and-8 to seal the victory.
Despite giving up 596 total yards of offense to the the Pioneers, the Avila defense forced three turnovers deep in their own territory to keep their opponents off the board. The special teams also forced a pair of missed field goals, and turned the Pioneers over on downs twice. Holmes and Lance Lewis each had interceptions in the game, and Wyatt Beebe led the Eagles with seven tackles.
Offensively, Raven Josiah led the way on the ground with 109 yards on twelve attempts. Asante Anthony finished with 104 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, and Naeem Moorefinished with eight catches and 51 yards.
The Eagles will return home for the final time next weekend for an 11 a.m. matchup against (RV) Evangel on ESPN3 and KSMO-TV. The game will also be Senior Day for the Eagles.