Olathe North knocks off No. 1 Free State
By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
The Olathe North coaches have been in Venus Triplett’s ear lately.
They’ve been telling their talented junior running back to be more physical.
All that talking helped. Boy, did it help.
Triplett rushed for 226 yards and scored three touchdowns for North Thursday night as the Eagles upended the previously undefeated and No. 1 team in the state, Lawrence-Free State 26-19 at the Olathe District Activity Center.
“We have been wanting him to be more physical,” said North head coach Gene Wier. “We needed him to put his head down and run through (the defense).”
That’s exactly what Triplet did, putting together his second 200-yard game in three weeks as the Eagles (3-2) hopped back into the Sunflower League race with the decisive victory.
“This game is very indicative of the kind of games you’ll see in the Sunflower League this year,” Wier added. “You had better be ready to go no matter who you are playing.”
Triplett scored two first-half touchdowns — one on the ground and one through the air — and added a back-breaking 80-yard score with 7:31 left in the third quarter that put North up 26-7.
“We just have to execute as a team,” Triplett said. “It’s all about execution and attitude.”
His long touchdown run came on a gutsy third-and-11 call at the Eagles 20.
“I want to make sure I get at least three or four yards every time I touch the ball. Then, you can put yourself in a position to break one.”
After going up by 19 with a quarter and a half to play, the Eagles began to work the clock, but Free State wouldn’t go away quietly.
They finally put together a sustained scoring drive late in the third quarter and pulled to within 26-13 with 4:31 to play in the third, but had to take to the air after that. The normally balanced Firebird offensive attack became one-sided. They threw the ball 25 times in the second half and ran the ball just eight times.
“What it came down to is that, defensively, we didn’t play that well at all,” Free State head coach Bob Lisher said. “Defensively, we have been playing well, but we didn’t tonight.”
The loss is Free State’s first of the year. They are 4-1.
Free State was able to eat up some yards late, as Joe Dineen picked up the bulk of his 213 passing yards. He connected with Khadre Lane from 15 yards away with 1:06 left to pull the Firebirds to within seven at 26-19.
The Firebirds still had a chance after recovering an onside kick, but Jamil Brown stepped in front of a Dineen pass and intercepted it on the first play to seal the win for North.
North racked up 278 yards on the ground and Cole Murphy added 119 through the air.
Free State, thanks to their late offensive surge as North was grasping to the lead, finished with 113 yards on the ground to go with their 213 yards passing.
The first half was all North. The Eagles outgained the Firebirds 244 to 88 in total yards and never let the Firebirds get anything going offensively.Free State’s lone points came on an 87-yard interception return by Blake Winslow on a tipped pass deep in the Firebirds end. The Eagles looked like they were about to add to their lead when a Murphy pass glanced off his receiver, then off of a firebird defender into Winslow’s hands. He weaved his way through a few would-be tacklers for the score.
The return didn’t take any wind out of the Eagles sails. On the ensuing drive, the Eagles went 54 yards on six plays and added their third touchdown of the half on a Murphy to Triplett 10-yard scoring strike.
“That answer to their touchdown was huge,” said Wier. ”It really was.”
The Eagles got on the board first midway through the first quarter when Murphy hit Josh Moore on a seam route to the left side of the field on a fourth-and-4 play at the Firebirds 25.
The Eagles dodged a huge bullet early in the second quarter when a snap went over the head of the punter. The Firebirds were set up with a first down at the Eagles 17-yard line, but came up empty, turning it back over on downs just two minutes later. Not only did the Firebirds come up empty on that drive, but the Eagles took it back the other way and scored a pivotal touchdown on a 14-yard run by Triplett to keep momentum in their favor.
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