Leavenworth earns first playoffs since 1980
By Sara Mettlen The Leavenworth Times
Leavenworth, Kan. — The Leavenworth football team did something it hadn’t done in more than 30 years on Friday night. The Pioneers earned a trip to the state playoffs with a 35-14 district victory over Shawnee Mission North.
Head coach Kevin Kopecky, soaked in Gatorade after the emotional win, said the victory was a big one for his squad.
“It won’t soak in for a little bit, and I’m standing here soaking wet. It’s unbelievable, Leavenworth High School is going to the state playoffs,” Kopecky said. “We just weren’t going to get beat tonight. Our kids are hungry, Leavenworth hasn’t been to the playoffs in 31 years and that’s just too long. It feels so good fro everyone involved in the program.”
The Pioneers went 2-1 in district play to stamp a ticket to the playoffs. The 2011 playoff game will mark the first for Leavenworth football since 1980.
“It feels real good,” said running back Jason Randall who ran in four touchdowns in the game. “I’m glad to be a part of this team and be a part of the team that came back and did this. We’re just thrilled.”
“This is huge,” senior Alex Waugh, who had a big interception in Friday’s contest, added. “It was something waiting to happen. We have a ton of great guys, the coaching staff is amazing and we’ve pushed so hard this year to get this done.”
After Shawnee Mission North returned the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown, it looked as if the night would be a rocky one for the Pioneers. Leavenworth brushed the miscue off though, marching down the field with a six-play drive capped by a 25-yard TD run by Randall. Judson Cole nailed the point-after kick to tie the game at 7-7 just three minutes into the game.
“That opening kick off was disappointing, but our kids handled it well and came back to play well,” Kopecky said. “Offense moved the ball and our defense played well. This is a big step for our program, it tastes so sweet.”
Bouncing right back, Randall said, was just a matter of showing the team’s heart.
“We just knew we were going to win this game,” the sophomore said.
Before the first quarter was over the Pioneers would be back in the end zone, this time Isaiah Ross — a freshman — busting through for a 22-yard run. Cole once again made the kick to give Leavenworth a lead it’d never surrender.
“This feels amazing,” senior Mark Dabeck said. “We knew we were capable. We’ve been working so hard, we knew this was coming. There’s no individualism whatsoever on this team, we stuck together and stayed strong.”
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