Leavenworth tops SM West

Tim Galyen/tgfoto.com

By Ian Stanford The Leavenworth Times
Posted: October 4, 2013 - 10:54 PM

This isn't one Leavenworth is likely to forget anytime soon. Ditto for the defending state champs, Shawnee Mission West.

The Pioneers torched West's defense with their second-half rushing attack and took advantage of critical Viking mistakes on the final drive to pull off a 37-34 upset Thursday.

“This is a huge win for the kids, the program and the school,” said Leavenworth first-year head coach Mark Littrell. “The kids played focused and with great effort. Great performance.”

West had a chance to win or at least tie with under a minute remaining and first and goal. But that's where things got sloppy again for the Vikings (who turned it over four times).

On first down, an end zone pass went through a receiver's hands. Then on second down, quarterback AJ Verdini tripped after the snap and was tagged down. With the clock running and no time outs, Verdini spiked it, settling for a game-tying field goal.

But West's kicker hooked it left, setting off raucous celebration on the sideline and in the scattered group of blue-clad fans that made the 45-minute trip.

It wasn't supposed to go like this, of course. Leavenworth came into the game struggling to score points, and West, while having lost a large core from 2012, were still the defending state champions.

Heading into the second half, it looked like West might cruise after shutting down the Pioneer offense for the entire second quarter.

But after the Pioneers' first drive of the second half sputtered, Leavenworth began lining up wide receiver Isaiah Ross in the backfield next to running back Jason Randall.

The adjustment worked brilliantly. With Ross and Randall in the twins formation on either side of quarterback Landry Hodges, Leavenworth began running the ball effectively to both sides.

The Pioneers scored on three consecutive possessions, turning West's 28-16 halftime lead into a 37-34 Leavenworth lead early in the fourth quarter, where it would stay.

“We put Isaiah [Ross] back there because we wanted to get him the ball, and that was how we could do it,” Littrell said. “This is the most carries he's gotten for us this year.”