Going old school

Laynie Timmons/PrepsKC Student Intern

By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Staff Writer
Posted: November 20, 2010 - 12:08 AM

OLATHE, Kan. — There was a time when Olathe North made their living on three yards and a cloud of dust.

In fact, when Olathe North head coach Pete Flood was under center for the Eagles, that was their bread and butter. Before North became Tailback High with quick, shifty backs, the Eagles pounded out victories with big fullbacks and bruising running backs that looked more like defensive tackles than tailbacks.


The big-play Eagles took a page from that old-school playbook Friday night in pounding out a hard-nosed 13-6 win over Olathe East in the Class 6A sub-state championship at the Olathe District Activity Center.


“That’s some old-school North football right there,” an excited Flood said to his younger brother Jason after the game.

Yep. Old-school. Backs from the early years like Charlie Cartright, Byron Hornung and Bryan Carpenter — names only the true, old-school North fans would know — would have been proud.


North just stuffed the ball right down the Hawks throats on their way to the victory, earning a return trip to the state championship game against Wichita Heights, a 42-38 winner over Dodge City.


The same two teams met in last year’s state title game, a game the Eagles win 37-3.


“We’ve been talking all week about just running the ball right down their throats,” North quarterback Victor Simmons said. “We just wanted to keep pounding it and keep pounding it.


“If it took us getting three yards a pop, that’s what we would do.”


That’s pretty much exactly what they did.


Adonis Saunders broke a 69-yarder in the first half for a score, but if you take that out of the equation, the Eagles rushed the ball 39 times for 96 yards. That’s even less than three yards and a cloud of dust. That’s 2.5 yards and a cloud of dust.


“I really did feel like we were in control most of the game,” Flood said. “This was a game that came down to miscues and we were able to win that battle. We had a couple, but they didn’t come back to haunt us.”


The Eagles turned the ball over once on an interception, but two other times they put the ball on the ground, they were able to recover the ball and minimize the damage.


Once the Eagles grabbed a 10-6 lead at the half, they were more than content to play the ball-control game and eat up the clock, not giving the Hawks the opportunity to come back.


The Eagles added to their 10-6 lead with a second Daniel Gutierrez field goal — from 32 yards — with a minute gone in the fourth quarter. At that point, it was all about hanging onto the ball for North.


“Week three is over,” said Saunders in reference to the Eagles 25-0 loss to East early in the season. “It feels amazing right now. I can’t even explain it.”


The Hawks did have one last chance to tie the score after Gutierrez missed on a 29-yard field goal attempt with 4:51 to play.


The Hawks used a pair of completions to Joe Rzewnicki — one for 30 and another for 31 to set themselves up at the Eagles’ 30. They were able to get down to the 14 before the Eagles’ defense really tightened. After an Austin Fulson 14-yard run set the Hawks up with a first-and-10 at the 15, the Eagles held Willingham to one yard on first down and held Fulson to no gain on second down. Saunders then batted down a Trent Kuhl pass on third down and Dominick Wilson intercepted Kuhl’s fourth-down pass, sealing the win for North.


“This was a definitely a defensive battle,” said East head coach Jeff Meyers. “North did a good job of doing what they wanted to do and, really, we did a pretty good job of doing what we wanted to do.”


After rushing for 100 yards in the first half, the Hawks had just 23 yards on the ground in the second half and the Hawks’ leading rusher, Brandon Willingham, had just one yard in the second half. He finished with 77 yards on 26 carries. After his first carry of the second half went for eight yards, his next seven went for one yard or less and three for negative yards.


“It seemed like they were spying where he went,” Meyers said of Willingham’s night.


“Our game plan was great,” Saunders said. “The coaches had us ready to go out and just play our game and that’s what we were able to do.”


The first 16 minutes of the first half were relatively uneventful with both teams combining for about 50 yards and two first downs, but with 4:10 to play in the second quarter Saunders broke free over left tackle and went untouched 69 yards for the first score of the game. The play seemed to catch East off-guard. The Eagles had just grabbed a first down on a holding penalty on third down.


The Hawks answered with a scoring drive of their own, aided by a North pass interference penalty that came on third and long, extending the Hawks’ drive, setting them up with a first down on the Eagles’ 32. Two plays later, Brandon Willingham went over right tackle, broke out into the open and scored easily from 19 yards out with 1:36 to play in the first half.


A blocked extra point attempt kept the lead with North.


North added a 27-yard field goal as time expired by Gutierrez. The field goal was set up by a 21-yard run by Simmons, followed by a late hit out of bounds by East and a 34-yard Simmons to Tanner Gentry pass play that sent up North with a first and goal at the East 10.


Saunders finished with 104 yards on 15 carries, leading a balanced North rushing attack that included Simmons 78 yards on 19 carries.