Lathrop rolls SCA moves into Class 2 semis

Clint Dye/Clinton County Leader

By Andy Meyer PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: November 23, 2018 - 11:12 AM

Once the Mules started rolling, there was no stopping them.

A dominant Lathrop squad scored 41 unanswered points and steamrolled Summit Christian Academy, 41-14, during the Class 2 quarterfinals. With the victory, the Mules (13-0) continued their undefeated season and advanced to the semifinals for the first time since at least 1971.

“I think they’re definitely excited. The kids are excited,” Lathrop coach Chris Holt said. “This is uncharted territory for these guys, for sure, and most people they know.”

The Eagles (10-3) struck first on Josh McConnell’s touchdown burst, and they had a solid chance to add to that lead after driving into the red zone on their next possession.

But Drew O’Connor made a diving interception to stop Summit Christian from doing anymore damage. Holt believe that was a turning point and helped his team retake control.

“That was giant,” Holt said. “Drew’s interception down here, I thought, really changed the momentum of the game. And it seemed like we kind of got field position in our favor, and that definitely helped.”

It was one of four takeaways for Lathrop – three interceptions and a fumble recovery – as part of a swarming defensive effort that didn’t allow the Eagles another scoring opportunity until the final minute.

Senior Justin Burns snagged two picks and said each turnover, each defensive stand only fueled his team’s ferocious play.

“We could really feel the energy off of each other,” Burns said. “And we really just capitalized off of it and stopped them and kept making big plays when we needed to.”

On offense, Lathrop displayed a methodical mindset thanks to its punishing ground game that only got better as the game wore on.

Seth McKnight ran for a pair of touchdowns, and Justin Wright tacked on another as part of an effective ground game. But it was the passing game that really made an impact, with Burns filling the playmaker role to a tee.

With the game tied at 7-7, Burns hauled in a 38-yard halfback pass from McKnight to give Lathrop the lead for good in the second quarter. Then Burns put an exclamation point on the contest with another 38-yard touchdown grab, this one from quarterback Blake Gordon.

While the Mules did the majority of their damage on the ground, Burns said being able to hit for big plays through the air makes the offense that much more balanced.

“When we can’t get sweep, we go to trap. And if we can’t get trap, we might go to counter,” Burns said. “And if we can’t get counter, we’ll throw it.”

Lathrop’s final touchdown came with just a few minutes remaining and capped a 41-0 run that spanned all four quarters.

Summit Christian would put together one last scoring drive on its final possession, which ended with McConnell’s second rushing touchdown of the game.

The victory allowed Lathrop to advance to the semifinals for the first time in decades. It’s believed that the most recent semifinal appearance occurred in 1971. Next weekend, the Mules will play the winner of Lamar and Ava – with a chance to advance to the state title game for the first time in program history.