Sideline Pass: Jim Bradford 11/1
By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
After a wet, wet week 1 loss to Shawnee Mission Northwest, the Olathe North Eagles were left shaking their heads.
They knew things would be tough this year. They knew their young team would take some lumps in 2012, but to lose so convincingly to Shawnee Mission Northwest in week 1 as a bit of a surprise.
Then came back-to-back thrashings at the hands of another two Shawnee Mission schools.
First they got decleated by Shawnee Mission East 30-7, losing to the Lancers for the first time … ever. Then they got humbled at home by Shawnee Mission West 38-7. To make matters worse, they lost starting quarterback Cole Murphy for the season.
Things did not look good heading into Lawrence for a week 4 matchup with Free State.
But a funny thing happened on the way to what some thought might be a winless North season.
They nearly knocked off Free State, losing on a controversial late touchdown by the Firebirds. Something happened in that 34-28 loss. The Eagles learned something about themselves.
They learned that they can hang with anyone, even the best the Sunflower League and the state — as we have since found out — has to offer.
The next week brought their first win, a 33-6 win over Leavenworth. Then a bit of a setback in a 14-3 loss to rival Olathe East. The Eagles then started district play with a convincing 40-7 win over Olathe Northwest.
With two wins in three weeks on the heels of that breakout loss — if there is such a thing — at Free State, North had begun to find its mojo.
It was that mojo, that Olathe North swagger that was missing in the first three weeks of the season.
New, old head coach Gene Wier knew it. He could see glimpses in his team, but they just couldn’t put the hammer down.
“We just have to keep working for tomorrow,” Wier said after the loss to Shawnee Mission East. “We need to learn and that’s where the inexperience comes in. It’s going to take some steps to get to where we need to go. We need to do a better job coaching and a get a better feel for where we are going.”
Those words seem somewhat prophetic now, as the 3-6 Eagles are getting ready to take on Free State once again in the Class 6A state playoffs this week.
Yep, those same Eagles are the second qualifier out of District 4 after a surprising 21-14 win over defending state champion Olathe South Friday night.
After an 0-3 start and looking as bad as any North team has ever looked, Wier rallied the troops behind the play of backup quarterback Dontez Sanchez and sophomore running back Venus Triplett. The school record, eight-game losing streak that stretched back to the tail end of last season is just a memory now.
Now, the snake lying in the grass has Free State in their sights. And you can bet Firebirds head coach Bob Lisher will have his top-seeded team ready. And so will Wier.
Just like old times.
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