Olathe North tops Free State to move on
By Cole Young PrepsKC staff writer
As Olathe North continues its turnaround under Gene Wier, the second half of the Eagles’ Kansas 6A quarterfinal game could be one of those moments to put a star next to.
The Eagles held on for a 22-18 win over Lawrence Free State at ODAC to send them into the semifinals against Shawnee Mission East.
Olathe North had to come back from an 18-7 halftime deficit capped off by a 16-yard touchdown run by Marcel Spears with 4:50 left in the game to take the lead for good even then though the two teams combined for three more possessions including a drive by the Firebirds that could have won the game.
On the final drive Free State converted two fourth-down conversions but saw the drive end suddenly end with an interception in the Olathe North end zone with 8 seconds left by Chaz Burgess. That turnover was one of six the Eagles defense forced, five of which came deep in Olathe North territory.
The only one that didn’t come inside their own territory was a recovery of a fumbled snap that set up the eventual game-winning score by Spears.
The victory was a big one for an Eagle team trying to reach the level of prominence Wier had them at during his first tenure at the school.
“We’re going back to old school Olathe North football,” Linebacker Jimmy Swain said. “We’re a little bit cocky, but we come with power and we back up what we say. I’m just so proud of my teammates.”
Swain and the Eagles defense were caught off guard early by an efficient passing attack from the Firebirds. Free State quarterback Joe Dineen completed his first six passes of the game, marching the Firebirds down the field to take an early 6-0 lead. Dineen ran for a score and threw for a pair of touchdowns including a 55-yard score to Keith Loneker.
He finished the game with 291 yards through the air completing 22 of 50 passes.
As the game went on though the Eagles defense made some adjustments and Free State was held scoreless in the second half.
“Things went our way,” Wier said. “They had a heck of a game plan. Give their kids credit. They took it to us and we had to regroup at the half and we shut them out in the second half. “
The Eagles defense seemed to answer the call especially in the fourth quarter, forcing three of the turnovers in just the final period, including the game-clinching interception by Burgess and another inside the five by Vinnie Shabazz.
“We pressed a little bit here and there,” Lawrence Free State coach Bob Lisher said. “When you press you are going to make some turnovers. Our guys played hard, they just made some plays when we didn’t. “
The victory sends Olathe North, 8-3, to the semifinals against Shawnee Mission East, a team that beat the Eagles 23-22 earlier in the season.
The Firebirds end their season with a 9-2 record, with both losses coming to Olathe North.
Prairie View Buffalos
Olathe South Falcons
Seneca-Nemaha Valley Raiders
St. Joseph Central Indians
Rich Hill Tigers
Crest Ridge Cougars
Ruskin Golden Eagles
Liberty North Eagles
Bishop Miege Stags
Central Heights Vikings