BV North edges Olathe North in shootout

By Andrew Robinson PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: November 23, 2018 - 11:59 AM

Blue Valley North will have a chance to defend its state title next week after defeating Olathe North 51-49 in a wild Kansas Class 6A semifinal shootout Friday night at the Olathe District Activities Complex.

Like so many 6A semifinals in the past, the game came down to the final seconds as Olathe North looked to recover an onside kick after scoring with less than 30 seconds remaining. But Blue Valley North recovered ending a back-and-forth contest that wasn’t short on offense.

For the Mustangs, it’s back to familiar territory. After starting the season 0-3, Blue Valley North has now won nine in a row and is back in the state championship.

“Last year feels completely different to be honest,” said Blue Valley North coach Andy Sims. “First and foremost hats off to Olathe North. There’s a group of seniors over there who played their hearts out.”

The teams’ quarterbacks were dazzling the entire night, dueling back and forth. Blue Valley North’s Graham Mertz finished 32 of 55 for 519 yards and five touchdowns while Olathe North’s Arland Bruce IV finished 14 of 20 for 174 yards and five touchdowns. Bruce added another 112 yards on the ground.

“We like to pass it a little bit,” said Mertz, who credited the team’s difficult Eastern Kansas League schedule for preparing the Mustangs for the playoffs.

“EKL is a battleground,” he said. “Every week you have to prep like it’s a state championship. We continued that mindset in the playoffs.”

Blue Valley North (9-3) never trailed after Amauri Pesek-Hickson opened the game with a 29-yard touchdown run.

From there, Olathe North (9-3) would answer time and time again. The game was tied 21-21 at halftime.

In the second half, Olathe North looked to take its first lead of the game but fumbled on its first drive leaving a short field for Mertz and the Mustangs. He would connect with Erik Roberts for a 16-yard touchdown pass to take a 28-21 lead. But Olathe North’s defense would answer, when Mario Sanchez intercepted Mertz and returned it for a touchdown, tying the game back up at 28-28.

Blue Valley North would take a 49-35 lead with five minutes remaining in the game after Mertz connected with Pesek-Hickson for a 38-yard touchdown pass.

But less than two minutes later, Olathe North was right back in it. Bruce found Elijah Williams for a 22-yard touchdown pass capping a six play, 69-yard drive.

Olathe North would get the stop it desperately needed on the ensuing drive. However, Blue Valley North punter Zach Willoughby-Neal would pin the Eagles at their own one-yard line.

But with 99-yards and two minutes remaining, the Eagles’ hopes of tying the game were quickly dashed with a backward screen pass from Bruce wasn’t caught and bounced out of the end zone giving the Mustangs a safety, and what proved to be the final difference in the game.

Olathe North coach Chris McCartney anticipated a high scoring offensive game, even though the Eagles can also grind out drives and take time off the clock.

“I was hoping if we could score 50, we’d have a good chance,” he said. “We were close.”

Blue Valley North will face Derby, which defeated Manhattan 24-6. The state championship will be at 1 p.m. next Saturday in Emporia.

“It’s a great opportunity to go back to our second straight state championship in a row,” Sims said.