Olathe East pitches another shutout
By Jim Bradford
OLATHE — A few weeks ago, Olathe East used a smothering defense to shutout Olathe North.
One week later Leavenworth didn’t even get into positive yards.
Last week? Well, last week was last week because the Hawks were right back at it tonight, holding a potent Lawrence-Free State team to just 17 rushing yards on their way to a 17-0 win over the Firebirds at the College Boulevard Activity Center.
The 27-21 loss to Lawrence one week ago felt more and more like an aberration on Friday night as the Hawks throttled the Firebirds from the start.
“We played really well defensively,” East head coach Jeff Meyers said. “I was really pleased with the way we played. I really can’t explain how thrilled I am with the way they played.
“We really did well with (preventing) what Free State does so well.”
The Hawks (5-1) posted their second shutout, but for all intents and purposes, they have posted four. Both Shawnee Mission North and Leavenworth punched in late, inconsequential touchdowns in lopsided East wins.
The Hawks defense, piloted by defensive coordinator Mike Wallace, was on fire on Friday. Austin Fulson and Matthew Baltimore led the way. The Hawks held Dylan Perry to negative yards on the ground and sacked the senior quarterback eight times.
For Baltimore and the Hawks defense, it was all about having an idea of what was coming.
“We saw some things on film,” Baltimore said. “Like when they go trips on one side, the tend to go the opposite way. It was all about anticipating what they were going to do.”
The Hawks were up 7-0 at the half and finally punched across their second touchdown a couple of minutes into the fourth quarter, the Firebirds (3-3) were forced to press a bit. That’s when Baltimore and the Hawks were able to pin their ears back and go after Perry.
“When we knew they had to pass, we were able to get after them,” Baltimore said. “There’s no way that they are going to be able to go out there and get 14 or 15 yards on the ground on us, so we knew they had to pass.”
Meyers is really happy with what Baltimore has been doing for his team.
“Baltimore gets better and better every week,” Meyers said. “He’s a pass rusher that puts great pressure on the quarterback. He has such agility out there.”
Despite the fact that the Hawks are the leading rushing team in the Sunflower League, the defense has been carrying them.
“Coach Wallace did a great job of getting the guys ready,” Meyers added.
After going up 7-0 at the half, the Hawks doubled their lead with a Brandon Willingham 2-yard touchdown run with 10:04 to play.
Danny Lorenzen drilled a 37-yard field goal with 4:41 to play, putting the game away.
Despite the loss, Free State head coach Bob Lisher was thrilled with the way his team played defensively.
They held the high-powered East rushing attack to just 182 yards, more than 100 yards under their season average.
“I thought we played outstanding defense tonight,” Lisher said. “I really thought was played well enough defensively to win. We just shot ourselves in the foot.”
The Firebirds had a couple of chances early to stay close, but some ill-timed penalties just killed their drives.
The Hawks finally put together a scoring drive late in the second quarter, converting on a fourth-and-1 play from the 3-yard line. Willingham went in from three yards out to put the Hawks up 7-0 at the half.
The Hawks’ scoring drive started at the Firebirds 44-yard line after a Free State punt went just 11 yards. The Firebirds can count themselves lucky, though. After the punter dropped the snap, he made a great athletic play to gather the ball and get off a punt off in the teeth of a mad rush by the Hawks.
Willingham, the league’s leading rusher, led the way on Friday with 131 yards on 29 carries and both touchdowns.
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