Coffeyville jumped all over Paola early and then came up with two big interceptions in beating the Panthers 36-15 in a Kansas Class 4A semifinal on Friday night at Paola.
The Golden Tornado was playing in its first state semifinals. Now it will storm into its first state championship game. Coffeyville, 12-1, will play Buhler in the 4A final on Nov. 30 in Salina.
Coffeyville scored 21 points in the early going on a strange combination of plays that gave the Golden Tornado a hefty 21-0 advantage.
Paola was able to cut the margin to 21-15 with 8:28 left in the game. But the Coffeyville defense came up with two key interceptions.
Junior Nick Wintjen intercepted an Andrew Henn pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown with 3:30 left. Coffeyville went with a run by James Newton for a two-point conversion making it 29-15.
On the Panthers’ next possession, Jamal Logan intercepted a Henn pass and returned it 55 yards to the Paola 9-yard line. LaDarrius Johnson got the touchdown for Coffeyville with 1:38 remaining.
“Our defense just played outstanding,” Coffeyville coach Murray Zogg said.
Coffeyville got things started quickly in this one.
James Newton returned the opening kickoff 75 yards to the Paola 15. The Panther defense stiffened after Coffeyville reached a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
It took the Golden Tornado four plays to score, but senior QB Nathan Finley eventually punched it in for the score.
On the ensuing kickoff, Coffeyville recovered a fumble at the Panther’s 32. Finley then found Darren Deffebaugh with a 32-yard touchdown pass.
Then came one of the stranger plays of the season.
On Paola’s possession, senior Luke Wilson attempted a 30-yard field goal. But the ball hit an offensive lineman and was rolling around on the field.
“I was yelling for Nick (Wintjen) to pick up the ball,” Zoog said.
Wintjen did just that, and more. He grabbed it and raced 75 yards untouched for the touchdown and the 21-0 first-quarter lead.
It was a tough loss for the Panthers, who saw their 10-game winning streak snapped. Paola finished the season 11-2.
This was the fourth time in the last five years the Panthers had made it to the semifinals, and they lost all four times.