Monday, November 5, 2012

Olathe East vs. Free State: An Acquired Taste

Free State students mocked The
Guarantee during the game. LJWorld.
This Friday Lawrence Free State (9-1) hosts Olathe East (6-4) in a Sectional game with plenty of intrigue.   Free State has looked like the league's most dominant team for the majority of the season and a win would secure the school's first Sub-State berth since 2008.  For Olathe East, the Hawks have won five straight games after starting the season 1-4.  Their victory over SM East last Friday made a statement to the rest of the remaining teams that the Hawks are for real.

Taking a look back, this isn't the first time the two schools have met in the playoffs with a ton on the line.  The schools crossed playoff paths in 2006 and 2010, and in both years the games' hype meters blew up.  Here's a look back at those two games. 

The Guarantee
When: November 10, 2006
What: Free State (10-0) was slated to play Olathe East (8-2) in the Sectional Round of the playoffs.  Following Olathe East's Regional victory a very big guarantee was made.

In 2006 two teams that were widely recognized as the class of the Sunflower League.  Free State and SM West.  Olathe East sort of played second fiddle all year, finishing the regular season at 7-2 with both losses coming at the hands of those two.  When the playoff arrived Olathe East was placed on Free State's side of the 6A East bracket.  The Hawks easily won their Regional playoff game against Olathe South, 33-7.  In a post-game interview Olathe East head coach Jeff Meyers uttered one of the most infamous phrases in Sunflower League postseason history.

"There's no team that I've wanted to play worse a second time in a season than (Free State)," said Meyers. "So, I'm guaranteeing a win."

Free State players took offense to the statement.  Earlier in the year they'd defeated Olathe East 33-28, and it wouldn't have been such close game had the Murphy Twins, Ryan and Brian, not missed the entire second half (Free State led 33-14 at halftime) due to leg cramps.

Shortly after the game kicked off at CBAC, Olathe East jumped out to a 6-0 lead on a 43-yard run from Dee Bell.  The Free State crowd grew silent.  Had the guarantee actually worked?  Would their 10-0 Firebirds be sent home packing at the conclusion of this Sectional contest?

The Firebirds answered with a touchdown from Ryder Werts before Olathe East added another touchdown to gain the lead, 12-7.  But that was all she wrote for the momentum of "The Guarantee."  Free State rolled, scoring the next 25 points in winning the game 32-12. 

Free State head coach Bob Lisher downplayed the comments before and after the game but I'm sure it was a point of emphasis that entire week for the Firebirds. 

Brandon Willingham (making the
tackle) and his Olathe East teammates
dominated the second half of the 2010
Regional game against Free State.
The Comeback
When: November 5, 2010
What: Olathe East overcame a major first half deficit to avoid a colossal upset and advance in the playoffs.

When the 2010 playoffs rolled around it looked like East 6A was going to come down to two teams--Olathe North and Olathe East.  The Hawks, who sat at 8-1, were matched against a 5-4 Free State team in the first round of the playoffs.

Most were predicting an easy victory for Olathe East who was led by arguably the league's top running back that year in Brandon Willingham.  Free State had a solid core of talent but their inconsistency throughout the season kept most people from ever putting any sort of playoff expectation on them.

The game started out relatively harmless.  Free State got on the board first with a 30-yard field goal from Antonio Schoenich to go up 3-0.  But then the Firebirds turned it up a notch.  They shut down Olathe East, regained possession and drove and scored another touchdown on a four-yard touchdown run from Dylan Perry to go up 10-0.  The Firebirds added another score in the second quarter on another drive that was capped off by a four-yard touchdown run from Perry.  Free State held a commanding 16-0 lead when the unthinkable almost happened.

Just before the half Olathe East fumbled at their own eight-yard line and Free State pounced on the loose ball to gain possession.  With under a minute remaining it looked like Free State was going to pound in another touchdown and go to the half with an almost impeccable 22 or 23-point lead.  However, a Perry pass was inexplicably picked off by Junior Williams and Olathe East was able to ride into halftime down 16-0.

The second half was a complete dichotomy.  On Olathe East's first offensive play Willingham took a carry 59 yards for a touchdown, and a successful two-point conversion pulled the Hawks within eight points.  Later in the third quarter Willingham took control of the game, busting loose on a 53-yard touchdown run that had people whispering Simone...

The two point conversion try failed, but Olathe East was close to gaining the lead, behind 16-14.  Free State lost the ball on the ensuing kickoff and Olathe East recovered.  A few plays later Willingham punched in his third touchdown of the day, giving the Hawks a 20-16 lead which they carried to the finish.  The Hawks made their way to the Sub-State game where they lost to Olathe North.  For Free State, the blown 16-point lead left an awful taste in their mouth as they departed for the offseason.


LAW'04 said...

Good post...I didn't know that about East's coach saying that, pretty stupid, i'm glad Lisher was able to make him look like a fool...Is he still the coach for East?
Now I really hope FS wins, but to be honest I don't see that being an issue, FS is pretty solid this year, i've gone to a couple of their games including the SMEast game when they shut them out, their defense was very impressive...

TheImpaler said...

This is also the ugliest game in the sunflower league. Green vs. Orange? Yuck.

Free State Fan said...

Remember both games well... love the guarantee and so did the 'Birds. The heartbreak of blowing a great first half lead with no expectations to win made for a long off-season of the "what if" conversations. If nothing else, that game taught Free State that you have to play 48 minutes of football in the playoffs.

TheImpaler said...

I voted for Andre Maloney.