Adjustment pays big dividends for SM West
By David Svoboda PrepsKC staff writer
Shawnee Mission West broke open a tight game with two TDs in a span of a minute at the start of the fourth quarter and hung on to knock off Lawrence 21-14 Friday night in a Kansas Class 6A quarterfinal.
Those two scores – which came on a 25-yard burst by Viking wide receiver Andre Maloney out of the Wildcat formation, and on a 34-yard interception return by Marquan Osbey – made a 7-6 West lead a 21-6 edge in the blink of an eye with just under 10 minutes remaining in the contest.
The Vikings, now 10-1, caught the Chesty Lions, 8-3, a bit off guard to open the third quarter by unveiling that Wildcat offensive attack. West needed to do something to awaken from a first-half slumber. Coach Tim Callaghan’s squad trailed 6-0 at the break, being shut out for a half for the first time all year.
“We were just completely embarrassed by the way we played in the first half,” West senior tailback Brett Sterbach said. “We knew we had to come out and make up for it in the second half, and that’s what we did.”
The key weapon in that second half for West was Maloney, who took direct snaps from center and put up numbers that had to have Lawrence Coach Dirk Wedd asking himself “where did that guy come from?”
Callaghan said the move to the Wildcat and Maloney was made for a couple of reasons.
”We just thought it would give us a chance to get Brett going downhill and get Andre involved a little more,” he said.
Indeed, coming into the contest, Maloney had just 15 carries for 113 yards in 10 games. In just two quarters of action in the Wildcat in this one he had 9 carries for 122 yards and one TD.
In addition to putting up impressive numbers on his own, Maloney helped kick start Sterbach, who struggled to just 60 yards rushing on 11 carries in the first half, but exploded for 69 in the third quarter alone to end the night with 149 yards on 27 attempts and a TD to match that of Maloney.
“We have two threats,” Maloney said of himself and Sterbach. “If they lock on me, I give the ball to Brett, and Brett gets his yards.”
With Maloney running the zone read to perfection, Sterbach got those yards in bunches in the second half, and said the reason was pretty simple.
“I think our line got things going,” he said, eyes still red from the tears he had shed – tears of happiness – in a jubilant postgame celebration. “I think we all just got our stuff together and started playing like we should be.”
Despite the two quick fourth quarter scores that lifted West to the 15-point cushion, Lawrence QB Brad Strauss valiantly tried to keep his team in the game, rallying the Chesty Lions for a TD and a 2-point conversion with 4:24 left that made it 21-14. Strauss’ 55-yard pass to Drake Hofer accounted for the TD.
It couldn’t, however, erase what was a bit of a nightmarish night for the senior signal caller, who was just 17 of 36 for 219 yards and two interceptions. And the 219 yards through the air were a bit deceptive in that 115 of them came on two plays.
Maloney, Sterbach and mates ran out the final 4:24, facing but one tough third down conversion – a third and eight early in the drive on which Maloney had a back-breaking burst for 31 yards.
This battle between the two previously high-powered offenses was, stunningly, a defensive struggle in the first half – a half that ended with Lawrence up by a single score at 6-0.
The Lions went 50 yards in 12 plays for the TD. Erick Mayo went over from the 1 for the score, and the 2-point try was no good.
That just set the stage for a second half that the Vikings will remember for years to come.
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