Instant Sunflower Classic

By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: October 24, 2015 - 1:11 AM

The two teams with a combined 18 state titles in the past 30 years have been through quite a few battles, but nothing quite like the epic showdown of two of the last couple of remaining unbeaten teams on Friday night.

Not sure if anyone has seen anything like this in the past.

Olathe North charged back from a 17-point deficit in the final five minutes, only to see Lawrence rip victory from their hands with a touchdown with four seconds remaining.

The 31-28 win helps keep the top team in the state unbeaten and on a collision course with a district title.

The loss is North’s first and leaves them shaking their heads and wondering what might have been.

“That was a crazy game,” Lawrence quarterback Alan Clothier said. “I am speechless, really.”

Clothier took his Lions down the field in less than a minute after North had scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:02 to play. They first converted a huge third down with a Clothier to J’Mony Bryant connection that put them deep in the Eagles end with 30 seconds to play.

Then, on fourth down, Clothier dropped back and floated a pass to the left corner of the end zone where Luke Padia was waiting to cradle the eventual game winner.

“I knew we had one last shot,” Clothier said. “I was a little shaky, but it was just the perfect play at the perfect spot.”

They had tried the exact same play just two plays earlier, but the pass sailed out of bounds.

“I knew if I got on the inside of the corner and put him on my back shoulder, I knew I would be OK,” Padia said.

Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd has been a part of many, many Lawrence-Olathe North battles and can’t remember any like this one.

“Man, these were two really good teams out here tonight,” he said, shaking his head. “You know we do our two-minute offense every Wednesday and Thursday and we run it against air (no one) and a lot of times, air beats us.”

All of that work paid off on Friday.

The 26-yard touchdown was the Lions’ first points since the last play of the third quarter when Clothier’s one-yard dive into the end zone put Lawrence up 24-7 and seemingly on their way to the win.

North had other plans.

Matt Wright hooked up with Isaiah Simmons for the first of three straight touchdown passes with 5:13 to play, on a short scoring strike from seven yards out.

The Eagles got the ball back and used all of 30 seconds to cut deeper into the lead. This time Wright hooked up with Simmons from 60 yards out to pull the Eagles to within three at 24-21.

After the Eagles defense stood Lawrence up on a quick three and out, they got a little bit of help from Lawrence on the fourth down play when Clothier fielded the snap with his knee on the ground, giving the Eagles the ball at the Lions’ 35-yard line with 1:18 to play.

Two plays later, the Eagles were up 28-24 after Wright hooked up with Simmons again, this time from 35 yards away.

The Eagles then kicked off to Lawrence with 1:02 to play. Lawrence’s winning drive started at their own 41.

“We have got to respond to something like this,” North head coach Chris McCartney said. “This is a tough one to swallow, but we have to and will bounce back.”

North did a couple of things on Friday night that no team had been able to do against Lawrence in 2015. They held JD Woods in check and ran all over the Lions vaunted defense.

Woods, the Lions’ all-time leading rusher, had just 95 yards on 28 tough carries and didn’t get into the end zone for the first time this year.

The Eagles ran for 243 yards against the stout Lawrence front seven and Wright passed for another 171 yards and three touchdowns.

“We felt like we played well,” McCartney said. “We were able to do the same things last year and were hoping to be able to do it again tonight.”

Lawrence faces Olathe East next Friday and a win gives them a district title and North plays cross-town rival Olathe Northwest with the winner getting the district’s second playoff spot.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” McCartney said.

Lawrence got on the board first with a 33-yard field goal by Cole Brungardt on their first drive of the night.

They let a golden opportunity to add to that lead slip through their hands just a second later when the Eagles coughed up the ball at their own 20. The Eagles’ defense held, though, and turned the ball over on downs.

It looked like the Eagles might snag the lead or at least tie the game on their ensuing drive, but an illegal man downfield on a first down pass completion from Wright to Si Martin had the Eagles in business at the Lions’ 14-yard line. Instead they were backed up to the 27. The Eagles turned the ball over in downs two plays later and came up empty.

The Lions then marched the other way and scored on a Clothier to Luke Padia 58-yard touchdown pass to go up 10-0.

They added to that lead less than a minute later when North coughed up the ball once again at their own 20. Woods hooked up with Ivan Hollins on a 20-yard touchdown pass on a halfback option.

In the span of less than three minutes the Eagles went from potentially taking a 7-3 lead to trailing 17-0.

The Eagles were able to finally get on the board a couple of minutes into the second quarter when Vinnie Shabazz went in from 15 yards to cut the lead to 17-7.

Shabazz finished with 129 yards rushing.