What’s behind that ‘Lancer Magic’? Focus, says SM East coach Delaney

SM East's Dominique Atkinson made a huge play in the fourth quarter for a safety.
SM East’s Dominique Atkinson made a huge play in the fourth quarter for a safety. Photo courtesy Don Austin.

Two weeks in a row now, Shawnee Mission East’s football team has pulled off an improbable win with fourth quarter heroics that have its fans going

So what is it that’s allowed the team to overcome the odds — even against a storied program like Olathe North — and pull off the victories?

Focus, says head coach Dustin Delaney.

“Our kids believe,” he said. “We talk all the time about not letting one bad play beat you — about how the next play is always the most important one. They were ready [for Olathe North], and they played well.”

Delaney credits the team’s defense, which converted a blocked punt and a behind-the-line-of-scrimmage tackle into safeties against Olathe North, with “bailing us out” while the offense was struggling — but he says he isn’t particularly concerned about the reliance on big defensive plays.

“It doesn’t really matter how it happens — what’s important is that you win,” he said.

And SM East’s offense certainly chose an opportune moment to start clicking in the fourth quarter Friday when quarterback Christian Blessen found senior receiver Will Mitchell at the very back of the endzone for what became the game-winning touchdown. Mitchell made a remarkable catch, keep his feet inbounds as he collected the ball and secured it for the score.

“It was a two receiver route, and [Christian] picked the right guy to hit,” Delaney said. “It was good execution. We watched that play a few times, and Will did a great jog getting the ball and dragging his feet to stay inbounds.”

SM East will face a 2-2 SM South next week that, despite coming off a loss against Olathe South, will be a formidable opponent. Delaney says the team has “great players, and they play hard. They’re every bit as talented as Olathe North.”

And two weeks from now, SM East will take on the Sunflower League’s other presently undefeated team, Lawrence Free State, during the Lancers’ Homecoming Game.

Check out Brian Libeer’s highlight reel from Friday below: