Third time is the charm

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: November 13, 2015 - 11:08 PM

Shawnee Mission East did exactly what they wanted to do Friday night in their Class 6A sectional matchup against Olathe North.

But the Eagles did all of the celebrating.

The Eagles used big play after big play after big play in punching their ticket to the state semifinals with a 44-30 win over the defending state champion Lancers.

North returned three kickoffs for touchdowns and added a couple of long scoring plays in exacting a bit of revenge in moving to 10-1 on the season and earning a showdown with Blue Valley at Blue Valley next Friday night for the right to play in the state championship game in two weeks.

The Eagles lost in the state semifinals to East in each of the last two seasons.

“We wanted another chance against them,” North’s Isaiah Simmons said. “As soon as we found out we were going to play them, the countdown was on. We have been waiting for this one.”

“We were ready for this one,” deadpanned Jackson.

The Eagles had lost four in a row to the Lancers, the longest losing streak against any team in Olathe North history.

Simmons and fellow big-play receiver and return man Storey Jackson led the way for the Eagles on a night when the Lancers were able to put together some nice, long offensive drives, but could not get out of the way of big plays.

“They simply big play’d us to death tonight,” East head coach Dustin Delaney said. “They have great skill position guys and just played really well tonight both offensively and defensively. They killed us on special teams.”

The Lancers had nearly twice as many yards as the Eagles — 388 to 214 — and ran 89 offensive plays to just 25 for North, but just couldn’t stop the Eagles special teams and special talent.

“You know, we really expected to do what they did tonight,” North head coach Chris McCartney said. “We really wanted to come out and really ground and pound it.”

Leading 21-14 at the half, the Eagles let the Lancers have a field goal to pull to within 21-17 midway through the third quarter, but that good feeling didn’t las long for East. It lasted all of 15 seconds.

Simmons, who had three touchdowns on the night — one by pass, one by run and another on a kickoff return — took the ball at the 2-yard line on the ensuing kickoff. He burst through a few Lancers, found a crease to the right and was off to the races.

“It was return left and once I got through, I saw room to the right and just took off,” Simmons said.

That return swung the momentum back to the Eagles, but it wasn’t until about four minutes later when North really plunged the dagger deep into the Lancers’ hopes.

With less than two minutes to play in the third quarter, the Eagles jumped on a Lancer fumble deep in the Lancers’ end. On the first play from scrimmage, Vinnie Shabazz went over left tackle and in for a touchdown from 27 yards out.

With 1:42 left in the third quarter, North was up 35-17 and the party was on.

East got back on the board with four minutes gone in the fourth quarter, but just a few minutes later, after being pinned at their own 1-yard line after a pinpoint Rustin Hiebert punt, it was time for another big play — or two from North.

On second down, Ryan Workman came around the edge and sacked Lancer quarterback Luke Kaiser for a safety that put North up 37-23.

The Lancers then lined up for an onsides kick on the ensuing free kick. They kicked it to the left, it bounced up off the turf twice and right into the hands of Jackson, who was running at near full speed when he cradled the ball at the 27-yard line. He went into the end zone untouched for his second kickoff return for a touchdown on the night.

“Yeah, when I saw it coming, my eyes lit up,” Jackson said. “I just ran toward it, grab it and took it in.”

The Lancers added a meaningless touchdown with 35 second left for the final score of the night.

The big-play Eagles scored on plays of 66, 63 and 27 yards and then added three kickoff returns for scores in returning to the state semifinals for the third straight year.

After spotting the Lancers a 7-0 lead on an impressive 16-play, 87-yard drive that ate up the first 6:45 of the game. Wyatt Edmisten dove in form one-yard out to put the Lancers up 7-0.

The lead didn’t last long — all of 11 seconds as Storey Jackson took the ensuing kickoff back 72 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.

 The Eagles then took the lead on an impressive 66-yard run by Isaiah Simmons on the final play of the first quarter. The run came on play after Matt Wright’s 60-yard touchdown run was called back on holding call.

The Eagles moved their lead to 14 points when Simmons took a Wright pass in the flat and punched though the line and raced 66 yards for the touchdown to put North up 21-7 after the PAT.

The Eagles let the Lancers right back in the game in the final two minutes of the first half.

Up 21-7, the Eagles committed two costly penalties in the defensive backfield, helping the Lancers to march down to score with eight seconds left in the half on a Kaiser to Mike Bamford 13-yard pass. A pass interference call set the Lancers up with a first down at the 13 with 14 seconds to play They scored on the next play.

Edmisten, the Lancers leading rusher, had 154 yards and three touchdowns, but needed 48 carries.

The Lancers end their season with a 9-2 record.

“It’s tough for the kids, but if you get to the state quarterfinals and feel like you had a bad year, you might be in the wrong business,” Delaney said. “It just wasn’t our year.”