Sideline Pass: Jim Bradford 11/4
By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
When Jeff Gourley took over the Olathe South football team four years ago, he vowed to do something that had never been done before.
Oh, but wait, what the Falcons were able to do Friday night for the first time in school history wasn’t exactly what Gourley was talking about.
It’s a start, but that’s really about it.
Yep, the first outright Sunflower League title in the schools 30-year history isn’t what Gourley promised, but to get an opportunity to get to that ultimate goal that he was speaking about — a Kansas Class 6A state title, it was the first, incredibly important step.
You see, if the Falcons failed to win an outright league title, they would have been turning in their uniforms and equipment this week as opposed to gearing up for the playoffs.
The Falcons stormed out to an impressive 6-0 start to the season. South then stubbed its toe a bit in the District 3 opener against Blue Valley Northwest. Thanks to an impressive array of tiebreakers put in play by the Kansas State High School Activities Association, they needed to win on Friday night by at least 13 points to secure the district title and move on to the state playoffs. A win by 10 or 11 or 12 would have them sitting at home with an 8-1 record.
“We were playing the points all night,” Gourley said after the game. “We knew what we had to do.”
What they had to do and did was very impressive, dispatching an Olathe East team that had won seven straight games after losing their season opener. The Hawks came into Friday night’s game as one of — if not THE — hottest team in Class 6A. They were legit and South had the magic tonic on Friday night.
In a matter of seconds the Falcons went from standing on the doorstep of the endzone, 35 seconds from the end of their season to a playoff favorite. One minute they are not going to the playoffs and the next they are in and one of the more feared teams in the bracket.
The difference came courtesy of a stellar night from Jordan Ward, who rushed for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and a defense that bent but did not break.
“We went to a 3-4 and were very gap aggressive,” Gourley said. “East is very good and we had to do something because we couldn’t just sit back and let them continue doing (what they did early on).”
The Hawks and Falcons battled to a near standstill in the first half with South gaining a one-point lead thanks a missed extra point by East.
But they got he ball to start the third quarter.
“We were definitely nervous at halftime,” Ward said, “but we knew what we needed to do.”
The Falcons were all about the numbers.
“We put it up on the scoreboard all week at practice,” Ward said. “The visitors on our scoreboard had 13 and we had 0.”
Now, the score is 0-0 and the Falcons are ready to make a run at something they have never been able to do.
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