East is the new beast
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
When a new coach takes over a college football program the idea is it will take 3-4 years to really find out if that coach is going to be successful. That way all of the players he has recruited will be in the program and on the same page.
In high school football turning a team around can take five years or it could take three months. You never know what you will get in a high school program from year to year. One coach might not have any success with one group while the next fits perfectly and wins come right away.
For a program like Shawnee Mission East the rebuilding program legendary coach Chip Sherman inherited looked more like a 5-10 year project of rebuilding. The Lancers had long struggled to find wins in the regular season and playoff success was hit and miss over the last four or five decades.
“My number one thing was bring some consistency to the program,” Sherman said. “We wanted to figure out a way to get the attitude changed and all that. When you go to a situation like that or a lot of situations where you are in a building mode you have two choices. You have expectations and the culture. You either lower the expectations to your culture or raise the culture to your expectations.”
The school won three Sunflower League titles in 1961, 1964 and 1966. The best regular season record during that run was a 7-1-1 mark in 1966. After that wins were hard to come by even with some spotty playoff success spread out over that time.
Many people said you couldn’t win consistently at Shawnee Mission East. In fact there was an underground newspaper at the school that would consistently make fun of the football team’s lack of success on the field.
Sherman arrived in 2009 and started to change the mentality of the program. There was a new focus on weight training. A new look at dedication to the program in all phases. Wins didn’t come quickly. The Lancers began the season 0-3 and found themselves at 2-4 heading into district play. Just two weeks later with close wins over Shawnee Mission North and Shawnee Mission Northwest East was headed to the post season for the first time since back to back trips in 2005.
That first playoff run ended with a loss to eventual champion Olathe North. The next season the Lancers went 8-1 and won a share of the Sunflower League title Olathe North, Olathe East and Shawnee Mission West. That year the Lancers hosted Olathe South in the first round of the playoffs but came up short losing 28-24.
“You stand on the shoulders of those before you,” Sherman said. “That’s the truth. That first group we had bought in. They said coach, tell us what to do and we want to be successful. By the end of the year we were doing good things and we got to the playoffs and that was a giant moment for those kids.”
Last year the Lancers took a step back in terms of regular season record at 5-4 but they were able to get a playoff win for the first time in a generation. That set up a rematch with Olathe South. The Falcons were on their way to a 6A title as they won a shootout 55-42.
This year East quietly got off to a 3-0 start setting up another showdown game with South. This time the Lancers were the ones who came out on top. East used a ball control offense and a stingy defense to earn a 3-0 win and stay perfect on the year at 4-0.
This win was a big step for the Lancers. This group is the first to spend all four years of high school in the program with Sherman and the veteran coach said that has a lot to do with the success of this year’s team.
“We’ve got kids that have bought in,” Sherman said. “We don’t have great numbers but the kids that are our guys have bought in and sold out and they are going as hard as they can all the time.
“They are your guys. They are guys that want to be there and you’ll find a way. If you take that kid that’s not as talented as the other and he wants to be there and he’s loyal and he buys in to what you do, that’s the guy I want out there on fourth and one.”
This past week the Lancers moved to 5-0 with an impressive 41-14 win over Olathe East. This week Shawnee Mission East travels to Lawrence Free State in another big Sunflower League showdown. A win over the Firebirds would be a league championship in site.
Whether or not this season ends with a Sunflower League title or even a deep playoff run that could take East to unprecedented heights is yet to be seen but the future path for the program is on the way up and the Lancers are now a force to be reckoned with.
Olathe South Falcons
Oak Park Northmen
Bishop Ward Cyclones
West Platte Bluejays
Platte County Pirates
Shawnee Mission West Vikings
Park Hill Trojans
Anderson County Bulldogs
Van Horn Falcons
St. Joseph Central Indians