Olathe North-Olathe East renew rivalry

Jeff Stead/PrepsKC

By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Staff Writer
Posted: September 17, 2010 - 3:54 PM

One look at the Sunflower League stats this week tells you all you need to know about the Olathe North-Olathe East showdown Friday night at the Olathe District Activity Center.


Olathe North’s Adonis Saunders leads the way with 284 yards on the ground. Olathe East’s Austin Fulson is second with 279 yards. North’s Victor Simmons is third at 274 yards and, yep, you guessed it, East’s Brandon Willingham is fourth with 250 yards.


Olathe North likes to run the football.


Olathe East likes to run the football.


When these two teams take the field Friday night, they will be looking at near mirror images of each other. It should make for one heck of a matchup between two teams that have played some thrilling games over the course of their 19-year history with one another.


“Both teams like to run the ball,” said North coach Pete Flood. “That’s exactly what each team is going to want to establish.”


The Eagles and Hawks have used the run to power their way to 2-0 records and Friday’s game is surely to be added to the pantheon of some of the greatest games in the school’s respective history.


It didn’t take long for these two teams to cement a bitter rivalry. In just their third year of existence, East knocked off North in overtime in what is still referred to as “the game” in the series.


The two then undefeated teams put on a show on that chilly October evening in 1994 as ODAC swelled past capacity. You ask any longtime North and East fans and they’ll tell you a different story about “the game,” and most will regale the tale of the endless stream of headlights that was headed into ODAC and turned away when they arrived. Others parked their cars as far as two miles away and walked. Those who got in — and there were an estimated 10,000 jammed into ODAC — saw a game for the ages. A touchdown pass in overtime by East and a timely defensive play by future Boston College star Pat Phelts ensured a 28-21 win for East.


Another epic battled was waged in 1997 when North intercepted a East pass in the end zone with two minutes left, marched the length of the field to pull to within 14-13 as they lined up for the extra point. A botched snap turned into a mad scramble and a two-point conversion, sending North to victory and to their second straight state title as eventual Simone Award winner Josh Brewer found seldom used receiver Bruce Harbord — Bruce Who? — in the end zone for the two points and the win.


After losing the 2002 regular-season matchup by 21 points, East battled North to a near standstill in the state semifinals just five weeks later.


A tough Hawks defense held eventual Simone Award winner Jim Bouknight to his lowest rushing total of the year (78 yards) and stayed within striking distance late.


The Hawks made their way to the 23-yard line in the final minute and lined up for a 39-yard field goal with 19 seconds to play, but another bad snap would do the Hawks in as the ball sailed over the holders head and North escaped with a 12-10 win. North would go on to win the state championship one week later.


The Hawks ended a nine-game losing streak to North in 2003 and won the regular matchup on their way to an undefeated regular season, but a highly anticipated rematch in the playoffs was dashed when East lost in the first round to Blue Valley North. North went on to, you guessed it, win the state title.


One of the most recent heartbreaks for East came in 2008 when they entered the first round of the playoffs undefeated, but lost to North 22-15.


“Year in a year out, we’ve played some great games,” said East coach Jeff Meyers said. “In our 19 years, they are the only team that we have a losing record against.”


The Eagles are 14-6 against the Hawks, but since 2003, when the Hawks ended the Eagles nine-game winning streak, the teams have split their last eight meetings.


“There is some extra energy (for rivalry games),” Flood said. “They are around each other so much growing up and they see each other around town, so it’s definitely special to be able to get that head-to-head win.


“Everyone wants to be able to say they beat their big rival.”


Fulson, an East senior agrees.


“We are going to prepare the same way we do (every week),” said Fulson. “But it’s a cross-town rival, so you do definitely get up a little bit more for this game.”


This matchup of two undefeated teams will undoubtedly have Sunflower League and state title implications. And with each team’s penchant for the ground game, this matchup pits two teams that are near mirror images of one another.

With the exception of a couple of late defensive lapses in North’s season opening win, the Eagles and Hawks road to 2-0 has even been similar.


North went up on Shawnee Mission West 29-0 before letting the Vikings leave with a bit of hope in the most lopsided 29-22 game you’ll ever see. Meanwhile, the Hawks won their opener against SM North 42-7.


East knocked off Olathe Northwest 21-7 last week, while North dispatched Olathe South 30-7. And guess what? Their respective running games propelled them to victories.


“They are good,” deadpanned Meyers. “They are a team with tremendous speed that has that great 1-2 punch.”

The key to stopping these Eagles?


“You have to play your best to beat them,” Meyers said. “It should definitely be a great matchup. We will really have to step up.”


The feeling pretty-much mutual.


“They are so fast,” Flood said. “Those backs they have are pretty doggone good.


“They work hard up front and fly all around on defense.”


The key to stopping these Hawks?


“They set up and get to the edge on offense,” Flood said. “We are definitely going to have our hands full.”