Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

T-Birds Looking to Continue Playoff Run

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

T-Birds Looking to Continue Playoff Run

Article excerpt

Shawnee Heights' football team is enjoying the best ride in school history.

Friday night when the 7-4 T-Birds host 8-3 Aquinas in a Class 5A semifinal, Shawnee Heights will be looking to extend that ride one more week.

"We've just had great energy (this week)," Shawnee Heights coach Jason Swift said. "They've been focused, enthusiastic, positive. It's just been contagious the way the kids have been going at business with a great attitude.

"You've got the excitement of everything we've accomplished and then the opportunity to play this Friday night at home, the kids are loving it."

The T-Birds started the season 1-4 but have reeled off six straight wins and advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in school history with a 34-14 win at Pittsburg last Friday night.

"You want them to appreciate what they've accomplished," Swift said, "but at the same time you want to keep measuring yourself by the way you improve and don't want to let what you've done be enough.

"You want what you've done to make you hungrier to see what else you can do."

Aquinas coach Randy Dreiling, who won seven state titles at Hutchinson before taking over the Saints this fall, has been impressed with what he's seen of the T-Birds.

"They're playing really well right now, obviously," Dreiling said. "They've got a lot of talent. Their running back (Tony Barksdale Jr.) is tearing things up. They're a totally different team than they were at the beginning of the year.

"They're playing hard, they're playing with passion and that's not good for us."

Heights' Barksdale, a senior, has rushed for 1,723 yards and 27 touchdowns on 148 carries while senior quarterback Camden Wheatley has passed for 1,815 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushed for 373 yards.

Senior receiver Austen Hubert has caught 35 passes for 599 yards while senior Malik Stanley has caught 32 passes for 546 yards.

Senior DeJuan Gardenhire Jr. spearheads the Heights defensive unit while Hubert picked off four passes last week against Pittsburg.

Aquinas has been hit hard by injuries, including a season-ending injury to top running back James Cosentino. …

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