|Several Lancer defenders worked to bring down Olathe North receiver Mark Keeling. SM East |
won the game, 36-35, in double overtime. Photo Kansas City Star.
The matchup folks had been talking about since August turned out to be better than the hype. Two 11-0 clubs, Co-Sunflower League Champions, squaring off in Sub-State. It doesn't get much better than that, and the action on the field made for a legendary game that will be talked about for years to come.
SM East had the first offensive possession of the game, receiving the opening kickoff. The Lancers put together a clinical opening drive against the vaunted Olathe North defense, driving down the field with little resistance and scoring on a 24-yard touchdown run from Sam Huffman. The Lancers connected on the PAT and led 7-0.
Olathe North converted one first down on their next possession, but was forced to punt. The Lancers put together another impressive drive, taking the ball inside Olathe North's 5-yard line. But on a fourth and one try, Olathe North linebacker Jesse Kendricks put a big hit on quarterback Gunnar Englund, stopping him short of the first down.
The Eagles got the ball out of the shadow of their endzone, and converted a couple first downs, but were eventually forced to punt again. By now it was midway through the second quarter.
SM East drove methodically down the field again, but things were slowed to a halt. They had a 23-yard touchdown run from Huffman called back on penalty, before turning the ball over on downs. The teams traded possession three times, before Olathe North took the final snaps of the half. At the intermission SM East held a 7-0 lead.
Each team punted the ball twice to begin the third quarter. SM East looked like they had something going on their third offensive possession, but an uncharacteristic Englund pass was picked off by Olathe North's Chaz Burgess who returned the interception 81 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
SM East got the ball back but was soon forced to punt. Olathe North's Isaiah Simmons was able to make his way through the punt unit to block the punt, and Olathe North took over at the SM East 15-yard line. A few plays later Venus Triplett took a carry in from a couple yards out, to give Olathe North a 14-7 lead with 45 second remaining in the third quarter.
The Lancers answered back quickly, driving the ball down the field and scoring on a 48-yard touchdown run from Huffman. However, the PAT missed, and Olathe North held onto a lead at 14-13.
Olathe North was forced to punt on their next possession. SM East was then able to put together another long drive, and eventually scored on a five-yard touchdown run from Wyatt Edmisten. The Lancers also converted on the two-point try, and went ahead 21-14.
Olathe North received the kickoff, and had just over four minutes to score. The Eagles put together one of their better drives of the season, but ended up facing a fourth down and goal at the SM East 11-yard line. Quarterback Cole Murphy lobbed a short flag route to Burgess, who made the catch around the defender for a touchdown. The PAT tied the game at 21.
SM East kneeled the ball to go to overtime. Olathe North won the toss and elected to play defense first. SM East made it into the endzone on their opening possession, scoring a one-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal. Olathe North matched the score on their possession, on a Murphy bootleg, to tie things at 28 and move to a second overtime.
The Eagles had the first possession, and scored relatively easy on a run up the gut from Triplett. SM East took four downs, but also made their way into the endzone on a one-yard touchdown run from Edmisten. But the Lancers weren't content kicking a PAT and moving on to a third overtime.
The Lancers called a rocket toss to right edge, for Huffman, who motioned to the right. Huffman headed toward the boundary, but then made a sharp cut north, and slipped into the endzone past several Olathe North defenders. The score put SM East ahead 36-35, awarding the Lancers the victory, and a second consecutive 6A state title berth.
|Hutchinson running back Blaik Middleton had a career night against Free State. He carried the ball |
21 times for 353 yards and six touchdowns. The totals gave him 2,621 rushing yards and 36 rushing
touchdowns on the season. Photo Hutchinson News.
Free State had put together an impressive late-season run, rattling off five straight victories, including two in the playoffs. But that streak wouldn't continue as they ran into an equally on-fire Hutchinson team, led by Blaik Middleton, likely the best running back in the state of Kansas.
The Salthawks set the tone early. On their opening possession they converted a fourth down try, then followed that up with a 59-yard touchdown run from Middleton to go ahead 7-0.
Free State took the ensuing kickoff into Hutchinson territory, but a fumble on their first play turned the ball over to Hutchinson. Salthawk quarterback Turner Wintz got Hutchinson deep into Free State territory on a 46-yard run, but a pass into the endzone was picked off by Carson Bowen, slowing some of the momentum.
Free State's offensive possession stalled near midfield, and Hutchinson regained possession. A few plays later, Middleton busted up the middle of the Firebird defense on a 38-yard touchdown run. The Salthawks then pulled off a successful surprise onside kick, and led 14-0 at the beginning of the second quarter.
Hutchinson drove with ease on the Firebird defense, before a Middleton touchdown run was called back on a penalty, and they stalled and turned the ball over on downs. Free State finally answered, with several long runs from Bowen. They eventually punched in a touchdown on a seven-yard touchdown run from Bowen, to make things 14-7.
But the Salthawk machine couldn't be slowed. Middleton came back a few years later, busting a 66-yard touchdown run up the middle to make things 21-7, Hutchinson.
Free State managed a nice kickoff return, and scored on a 13-yard touchdown run from Bowen a few plays later to make things 21-14. But that was all she wrote for the Firebird offense. Middleton added a 57-yard touchdown run on Hutchinson's next possession to go up 28-14. A Free State drive stalled inside the Salthawk 10-yard line, before the game went to halftime.
Free State showed promise on their first drive of the second half, but a Bryce Torneden pass was picked off in the endzone by Peyton Pendergrass. The Salthawks used that momentum to drive 80 yards, scoring on a two-yard touchdown run from Middleton. That made things 35-14 in favor of Hutchinson.
Free State drove all the way down to the Hutchinson one-yard line on their next possession, but unable to punch it in, they turned the ball over on downs. The clubs traded possessions to start the fourth quarter, before Middleton added his sixth touchdown of the day on a 29-yard touchdown run. The score put Hutchinson up 42-14.
Neither team scored in the final 6:38, and Hutchinson took the victory. The Salthawks will be making their 10th state title appearance since 2003 on Saturday against SM East. For Free State, the program dropped to 1-3 all-time in Sub-State games.