Olathe South wins showdown with Lancers

By Shawn Roney Special to PrepsKC
Posted: September 24, 2011 - 9:47 PM



Olathe South football coach Jeff Gourley’s gut feeling Saturday afternoon at Shawnee Mission District Stadium was correct.
 
South led Shawnee Mission East 29-21 with less than a minute to play in SM East’s homecoming game; however, SM East had the ball at South’s 11-yard line, threatening to stage a game-tying drive and force overtime. Gourley felt confident South’s defense wouldn’t allow that to happen.
 
On first-and-10, Lancers’ quarterback Nick Pirotte threw over the middle. South linebacker Remington Whitley was waiting and intercepted the pass. The undefeated Falcons then ran out the clock to finish with an eight-point victory and improve to 4-0 overall and in the league.
 
“I kind of expected more of a deeper route,” Whitley said. “But I recognized it and made the play.”
 
Gourley usually thinks “three or four plays ahead” when he coaches. But when the Lancers were threatening, “I had full confidence that we’d stop them,” he said.
 
Eastt coach Chip Sherman felt that Pirotte “did fine” in leading the Lancers’ late threat. Pirotte, who completed 19 of 41 passes for 247 yards and threw a TD pass and three interceptions, needs “to continue to learn and think,” Sherman said.
 
“That’s all part of it,” Sherman stated.
 
Pirotte engineered the drive that kick-started the seesaw Sunflower League affair. After the Lancers forced the Falcons to go three-and-out on the opening possession, SM East traveled 61 yards in nine plays to go up 7-0 with 7:44 left in the first quarter. Pirotte completed four of four passes for 39 yards to set up Jeff Cole’s 4-yard TD run and Sean Luenz’s extra-point kick.
 
Running back and defensive back Matt Elliott answered for South on the next possession by ripping off a 75-yard TD run. Jared Douglas’ point after tied it with 7:25 left.
 
Pirotte’s 27-yard TD pass to Connor Rellihan and Luenz’s point after made it 14-7 Lancers with 1:52 left in the first quarter. Again, South answered on the next possession. This time, the Falcons staged a 14-play, 68-yard drive, capped by Chris Wright’s 1-yard TD run and Douglas’ point after with 6:45 left in the second quarter.
 
The Lancers (2-2 overall and league) threatened to answer on the next possession, reaching the South 26. Elliott’s 80-yard interception return ended the threat and made it 20-14 Falcons with 4:40 left.
 
The play was a blur to Elliott.
 
“It’s hard to remember stuff (during a play) when you do stuff like that (make an interception return),” he said. “You just get in your zone. Football’s just too much fun, and I just can’t remember (everything).”
 
SM East started the second half with a go-ahead 12-play, 73-yard drive, capped by Cole’s 3-yard run and Luenz’s point after with 8:15 left in the third quarter. Frankie Seurer’s 68-yard TD pass to Drew Johnson gave South the lead again with 11:23 left in the fourth quarter. Douglas, who had missed a 37-yard field goal that would’ve given South the lead late in the third quarter, hit a 29-yard field goal with 9:06 left.
 
The Lancers started their 11th-hour threat from their 14. It took them eight plays to reach the South 11. Facing fourth-and-10 from the South 40, Pirotte connected with Rellihan for a 29-yard gain to force the Falcons to make their defensive stand.
 
Sherman hopes the Lancers learn an important team-building lesson from their dramatic loss: “You just can’t make big-play mistakes,” he said.
 
The closing-minute interception was the third turnover – or “big-play mistake” – the Lancers committed during the fourth quarter. A fumble set up Douglas’ field goal. An interception after that allowed the Falcons to grind 1:57 off the clock.
 
“We just decided, ‘We’re not going to lose’ and we wanted it more (than them),” Elliott said.