|Olathe North's Chaz Burgess had a late|
interception which sealed the game for
the Eagles. Photo LJWorld.
When most of us think of Olathe North football we don't think of a team or program that just kind of hangs around in games, then sneaks out with late victories. But on Friday that's exactly what they did, and a four-point win later, they're headed to their 12th Sub-State game in 19 years. The Eagles won the takaway (6-2) and big play (3-1) battles in the game, and they also capitalized on Free State's multiple miscues.
The game got off to an inauspicious start for Olathe North, as Free State marched 80 yards on their opening drive and capped it off with an eight-yard touchdown run from Joe Dineen. A botched extra point gave the Firebirds a 6-0 lead. Olathe North was forced to punt, and it looked like Free State was going to cruise to a second touchdown but a Dineen fumble ended the drive. Early in the second quarter Olathe North got on the board with a 10-yard touchdown run from Venus Triplett, giving the Eagles a 7-6 advantage.
Free State took over for the rest of the quarter, scoring first on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Dineen to Keith Loneker. A blocked extra point meant the Firebirds' lead stood at 12-7. Free State was able to score one more touchdown before halftime when Dineen scrambled and found Loneker on another touchdown pass from nine yards out. After a failed two-point conversion, the Firebirds took an 18-7 lead to halftime.
The third quarter was a sloppy back and forth battle, but Olathe North managed a touchdown on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Cole Murphy to Chaz Burgess following a Free State turnover. A successful two-point conversion made the game 18-15, Free State. Olathe North forced a fourth turnover in the fourth quarter when Vinnie Shabbazz picked off a Dineen pass, then later a Dineen fumble gave the Eagles the ball at the Free State 8-yard line. Shortly thereafter the Eagles scored on a 16-yard touchdown run from Marcel Spears to take the lead, 22-18. The teams exchanged punts, and Free State began their last drive of the season at their own 5-yard line, with 2:53 remaining on the clock.
Several miracle first downs later, Free State found themselves with the ball on the Olathe North 17-yard line, with 14 second remaining. It looked like the Firbirds may just pull off the comeback. But Dineen's final pass, a fade route, was under thrown and Burgess was able jump up and make the game-sealing interception.
SM East 20, Olathe East 13
For the long-time Olathe East faithful, Friday night looked like deja vu from a decade ago. In the Sectional Round of the 2003 playoffs, Olathe East jumped to a 7-0 lead on their opening possession on a long touchdown run from Andre Jones, but went on to lose in disappointing fashion. The Hawks did the same on Friday, when Jalen Branson busted through the line on the first play of scrimmage going 67 yards for a touchdown. But just like that haunting loss from a decade ago, the Hawks weren't able to muster much of anything in the 47 minutes that followed.
SM East matched the score when they put together an 80-yard drive and capped it off with a seven-yard touchdown run from Ryan Carter. A few drives later Rider Terry recovered an Olathe East fumble, and a play later Gunnar Englund connected with Mitchell Tyler on a 36-yard touchdown pass to give the Lancers a 14-7 lead. SM East forced an Olathe East punt, then added another score before halftime, on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Englund to Alec Dean to give the Lancers a solid 20-7 lead at the half.
The two teams traded possessions for the all of the third quarter, and most of the fourth, until Olathe East finally added another score on a seven-yard touchdown run from Branden Trinkle with a minute and a half remaining in the fourth quarter. Trailing 20-13, the Hawks attempted an onside kick but SM East recovered, and was able to run out the clock.
The victory marked the first time since 2001 that SM East has advanced to the Sub-State Round of the playoffs. For Olathe East, the loss marked the 12th time in the row the Hawks have made the playoffs and failed to win a state title -- harsh or not, that's the reality.