SM East survives scare from Olathe East

By Ryan Wallace PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 2, 2018 - 5:24 PM

For a moment, it looked as though Olathe East was on its way to stunning No. 2 seed and perennial power Shawnee Mission East and a split second it was all over. No upset, no improbable comeback, no more 2018 for the Hawks as the Lancers survived a massive scare by holding on to a 23-20 final score.

Down 16-points at the break, Shawnee Mission East capitalized on Olathe East’s miscues to gain an early edge. The first score came courtesy of a missed Olathe East field goal late in the first quarter, after senior running back Rashaun Burney polished off strong Lancers drive upon gaining possession back. With the Hawks on their heels, Shawnee Mission East nearly put the game on ice when linebacker Joseph Mohr snuck behind the offensive line to pick off Hunter Thomas on a dump pass. Though Mohr initially returned the interception to the end zone, a penalty negated the score and the Lancers would settle for a Parker Willis field goal.

“There were some times where I thought we really had some opportunities to get pretty comfortable and we weren’t able to do that,” a victorious Justin Hoover said of his team afterwards. “We’ll go back and clean up mistakes but I have a bunch of faith in this group. They battle and fight and find a way, so as far as nerves go, it’s just the norm.”

If Friday truly was the norm for the now 8-2 squad, there’s no doubt they like to live dangerously as Olathe East did all they could to break through the proverbial door the Lancers left open.

Out of the gate in the second half, Thomas regained his composure after a shaky start to show some serious moxie in the pocket. On a 3rd and 17 from Shawnee Mission East’s 48-yard line, the senior quarterback fired a dart across the middle to the night’s top target, sophomore Kameron Byers, cutting the lead to 10 at 16-6.

On the very next series it was Thomas connecting with Byers yet again for a 38-yard strike, inching Olathe East’s deficit to just 16-12.

“We’ve shown a lot of resiliency the latter half of the year,” a proud Jesse Owen said of his Hawks in the season finale. “We played the top four seeds so we were battle tested.”

And oh did the Hawks test the Lancer defense late, as the visitors seized momentum midway through the fourth quarter. It began on a huge fourth down stop by the highly touted junior Nate Matlack, stuffing a run up the middle to hand the ball back to a sizzling offense. That’s when Olathe East dove into the playbook for a 44-yard trick play that sent a Byers pass over double coverage and into the hands of senior receiver Ray Lewis, rotating backwards to adjust to the throw and collect the pigskin near the 4-yard line. A Thomas sneak at the goal line and a successful Byers two-point conversion made the score 23-20 in favor of Shawnee Mission East with 6:21 to play but it seemed like the Hawks game to lose at this point.

“What you have to realize in a class of 30 seniors is how important these moments are to them,” explained Hoover of his veteran unit. “We talk about being selfish right here in the playoffs, meaning if you win you get another week together, and we rely on the seniors to handle that leadership part.”

So it comes as no surprise that the experience laden Lancers wound up creating yet another turnover when it mattered most.

Stopping Shawnee Mission East at midfield to get the ball back for a final time, Olathe East converted a 4th and 8 to Lewis for a 15-yard gain that put the Hawks on the doorstep of the red zone with under a minute to play. The No. 10 seed was rolling yet again, an upset so close they could taste it.

And then came a Thomas fumble on a rollout from the pocket. The senior Mohr recovers and the home crowd explodes as Shawnee Mission East lives to play another day.

“I think that’s what we talked about at the end — we did enough,” finished Hoover. “It wasn’t pretty and we know there were mental and physical things we need to clean up, but we talk a lot about being able to refocus after big plays and we did tonight.”

“Sometimes, you don’t know how to do something until you do it,” reflected Owen in the loss. “We know now how a game like this feels and how a drive like that feels. Hopefully, we removed some of that internal pressure that we as coaches talk about but we’re not going to take a moral victory for coming up short. I’m proud of our guys for the way we played. Now it’s a matter of how we handle ourselves in the offseason.”

Next up for Shawnee Mission East, a rematch from an October 5 clash with Olathe North where the Lancers earned a 35-28 victory.