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Every inch counts




Olathe West’s defense stone walled Lawrence three times Thursday in their quest to start the 2022 campaign 2-0. But it was the Lion defense that buried Olathe West’s shot at a perfect season when Clint Bowen’s squad came from behind after trailing twice in the first half to pull out a 28-21 win over TJ O’Neill’s Owls in Thursday’s back-and-forth tussle.

Lion senior defensive end Kenton Simmons swallowed up Owl quarterback Mason McGavran on fourth-and-goal from the Lion four on the game’s final play to seal the one score win and send the Lion sideline into chaos.

“They put in a blitz for me,” Simmons said following the game. “You want to put your best players in position to make big plays. And that’s what they did for me. I just did my job. I do have to thank my teammates. Without them he wouldn’t have cut it back.”

With the score tied 14-14, Lawrence took the opening kick of the second half and drove to the Owl one-yard line before Brandon Roupsouay hit Lion running back Tyrell Reed in the backfield for a three-yard loss to thwart Lawrence’s attempt at taking the lead for the first time.

Olathe West took over on downs there but had to boot the ball away. Lion wide receiver Sam Sedo returned the punt to the Owl 29. Olathe West was called for a personal foul on the return, moving the ball to the Owl 14.

Following a couple of incomplete passes, Tyson Grammer connected with Sedo for a 14-yard score to put the Lions up 21-14, their first lead of the contest, with 5:20 left in the third quarter. Olathe West responded 74-seconds later when McGavran and Jack Scott teamed up for a 52-yard strike with less than four minutes left in the third quarter to tie the game at 21-21.

Reed then capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive with a five-yard run up the middle with about 11 minutes to go in the contest to complete the game’s scoring and allow the Lions to escape on the road.

But the drama didn’t end there. Lawrence forced Olathe West to punt on its next possession before driving from its own 46 to the Owl 2-yard line 13 plays later. Olathe West’s Maddux Leiker then made his presence known by knocking Grammer’s pass away to give the Owls one more chance with 3:25 left. Eighteen plays and 94 yards later, Simmons saved the day.

“Man, I have to credit their red zone defense,” Bowen said. “They stepped up and stopped us three times. We had opportunities to put the game away, but they made the plays. Coach O’Neill does a nice job with that program.”

Mason Barnard put Olathe West in position to score the game’s first points when he latched on to McGavran’s pass on fourth-and-six from the Lawrence 31-yard line and raced to the 11. Two plays later, Scott raked in a 10-yard strike from McGavran to put the host Owls up 7-0 with 10:48 left in the opening half.

The Lions responded in the blink of an eye 22-seconds later. Following Sedo’s 20-yard kick return to the Lion 36, Reed appeared to be stopped on the series' first play. But the 5-foot, 9-inch, 190-pound senior broke free and raced down the left sideline for a 64-yard romp that knotted the game at 7-7 with 10:26 left before intermission.

The Lions attempted an onside kick seconds later. But the Owls recovered the ball near midfield and took advantage of the short field. McGavran capped off the 53-yard drive with a 10-yard run up the gut to put Olathe West up 14-7 with 8:13 left in the half. 

Bowen’s Lions struck quick one more time. Reed returned the kick to the Lawrence 19. Forty seconds later, Lion quarterback Tyson Grammer found Sedo for a 77-yard score to even the game at 14-14.

The Lions forced an Olathe West punt from the Owl 10-yard line and took over near midfield again. But the drive stalled at the Owl 16 with 17-seconds left in the half and Olathe West took a knee to run out the clock.

With the win, Lawrence evened its record at 1-1 following last week’s 36-32 loss to Olathe South. Bowen said he and his staff challenged the Lions following the close loss.

“We challenged their pride,” Bowen said. “We challenged them on how they are representing this program. On who they are and what they are. And they responded. They fought back and got the win.”

The Lions hit the road again next Friday, Sept. 16 as they travel to Shawnee Mission North to do battle with Shawnee Mission East (0-1). Olathe West, meanwhile, will try to rebound at home against Gardner-Edgerton (1-0) on Friday as well.