Olathe South ends up on top
By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
TOPEKA, Kan. — Olathe South used a little bit of what helped them in the past to help exercise some demons from the past.
The Falcons converted on a fourth and 10 with 1:25 to play when Frankie Seurer, Jr. found Matt Elliott in the left flat for 24 yards. Two plays later, Jordan Ward took the ball up the middle and into daylight for the game-winner as South beat Wichita Heights 41-37 to win their first-ever Kansas Class 6A state championship.
It’s the Falcons first state title in their fourth trip to the state title game. South came up short in 1999, 2004 and 2007.
“I am so happy for these kids,” said South head coach Jeff Gourley. “They are so resilient. I’m just so proud of them.
The fourth-down play was the same play the Falcons used to secure a regular-season win over Shawnee Mission East and Gourley knew that it was something that you can’t use very often.
“It’s one of those plays that you definitely have to use at the right time,” he said with a laugh. “I’d say fourth down at that point was pretty clutch and the right place.”
South had their backs against the wall at that point. They had just seen Heights take a 37-34 lead on a 25-yard field goal by David Hoyer.
“They were in man coverage,” South quarterback Frankie Seurer said. “And we knew the safety wasn’t going to be able to get over to him before (he got the first down).”
Elliott got the first down and then some, setting up South with a first down at the Heights’ 47 with 1:25 to play.
After Fritz Wilbur got six yards on the next play, Ward did, well, what Ward does, took the handoff from Seurer and went 41 yards up the middle and out to the left for the game-winning score.
“I saw a lot of green in front of me and a lot of blue once I got close to the end zone,” Ward said.
Ward finished with 265 yards on 27 carries. It was his fourth 200-yard game in his last five games. He finished his senior season with 1,742 yards rushing and 23 touchdowns.
The Falcons were battling back most of the day. After going up 7-0. They were down at the half and then after going up 27-21 early in the second half, were down 34-27 with eight minutes to play.
Heights had just driven the ball deep into South’s territory. What looked like a back-breaking touchdown by Marquel Moore as he went over right tackle and spun to the Falcons’ 1-yard line. As he was getting close to the end zone, South’s Dylan DeVries hit him form behind, knocking the ball loose. Taylor Sheffield jumped on the ball and South took over at its own 1.
What came next will live in Falcons’ lore for a long, long time.
On the first play after the turnover, Seurer went back to pass and found Drew Johnson open down the right sideline. Seurer put a perfect pass right into his hands and Johnson never broke stride, scoring on a 99-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.
“We were all feeling it,” Seurer said. “We knew we had the momentum and had a good matchup on Drew.
“He’s the fastest man in Kansas, so I just had to throw it to him.”
Seurer knew he had put just the right amount of air under the pas as soon as he let it go.
“As soon as we got the ball, I had a feeling they were going to call it,” Johnson said. “I saw the ball go up and I just took off sprinting down the sideline.
“That was the longest 99 yards I’ve ever run. It felt like it last 15 or 20 seconds.”
An elated Gourley was gushing about his junior quarterback after the game.
“I can’t say enough about Frankie,” Gourley said. “He is so calm, cool and collected out there. He’s one of the most unselfish players I’ve been around.”
Seurer finished 4-of-5 for 183 yards.
The win was extra special for Gourley, who was able to share the victory with his son, senior co-captain Scott Gourley.
“We work so hard with all of these players,” Gourley said. ‘But when youa re able to share something this amazing with my own kids is something very special.”
South becomes the ninth Olathe team and only team besides Olathe North to win a state title.
“It took a long time, but this is why I came here,” Jeff Gourley said. “Olathe South deserves this and these kids deserve this. We were able to finish the deal.”
After South took a 7-0 lead on Teddy Colbert’s 63-yard run with four minutes gone in the first quarter, South’s Christopher King recovered the ensuing kick after it fell in front of Heights in side their 10. Unfortunately, South was unable to convert after getting the ball at the 8-yard line. A 24-yard field goal attempt by Jared Douglas sailed wide left.
Heights took over at the 20 and marched down the field to get on the board with a Marquel Moore 2-yard touchdown run.
Heights then turned the tables on South by recovering their kickoff on the ensuing kick, taking over at the 25 after the kick fell in front of the Falcons deep back Colbert.
Unlike South, Heights was able to convert. On a fourth-and-4 play from the 15, Jonathon Wilcoxson took a toss from Matt Reed and scored easily to give Heights the lead, a lead they would not give up throughout the rest of the first half.
South cut into the lead with Ward’s first touchdown run of the game. He went in from two yards out to cut the lad to 14-13 after a missed extra point.
Heights then answered with a Moore 25-yard run to go up 21-13 with 7:28 to play in the second quarter.
South then cut into the lead again on Ward’s second touchdown, this time on a 1-yard run, using up more than five minutes of the second-quarter clock. A Colbert run on the conversion came up short and Heights went into halftime up 21-19.
“They played a great game and we played a great game,” said Heights head coach Rick Wheeler. “We just came up short. These are 16, 17 and 18 year old kids and sometimes things don’t work out the way you would like. I am so proud of the way our team played, though.”
Heights rolled up 479 yards rushing in a losing effort. Moore led a quartet of runners with more than 86 yards rushing with his 169 yards.
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