Rare territory: Lancers extend magic season, earn trip to state semi-finals

Mitchell Tyler, who had an excellent night on both sides of the ball, celebrated after reeling in the touchdown that put the Lancers ahead for the first time Friday.
Mitchell Tyler, who had an excellent night on both sides of the ball, celebrated after reeling in the touchdown that put the Lancers ahead for the first time Friday.

Shawnee Mission East’s best football season ever got distinctly better on Friday.

Before a boisterous crowd of fans clad in Columbia blue, the Lancers outdueled an Olathe East program with blue blood roots, winning their sectionals match, and earning a trip to sub-state for the first time since 19882001. The Lancers’ only other trip to sub-state was in 1988.

With the exception of a 60-plus yard run by Olathe East’s Jalen Branson that opened the night’s scoring, the SM East defense put up a stifling front in the first half, giving the offense helmed by quarterback Gunnar Englund the latitude to score three unanswered touchdowns.

Englund’s precision as a passer was again on display, as he completed two beautiful first half touchdown throws, first to Mitchell Tyler over the middle for a 36-yard score, and then to Alec Dean in the back of the endzone.

The Lancers took a 20-7 lead into the break that allowed them to focus on grinding out the clock in the second half. But Olathe East began to find some offensive traction in the third quarter, and was threatening in the redzone when SM East’s Charlie White picked off an Olathe East pass. The Hawks capped off a long drive late in the fourth quarter with a touchdown run to make it 20-13. But with just a minute and a half left, the Lancers got the ball back and took a knee to secure the victory.

SM East will face the same Olathe North squad they edged 23-22 in September in the second game of their four-game “Lancer Magic” run. The Eagles on Friday knocked off favored Lawrence Free State (the only team to beat the Lancers this year) to advance to the semi-finals. Derby (10-1) and Garden City (8-3) advanced in the western half of the bracket.

SM East gets to host next week’s game, which will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium.

(And if I haven’t mentioned it…IT’S A GREAT DAY TO BE A LANCER).

A "grind-it-out" running game helped the Lancers control the clock and limit Olathe East's opportunities on offense.
A “grind-it-out” running game helped the Lancers control the clock and limit Olathe East’s opportunities on offense.
Retired SM East principal Karl Krawitz (in blue cap), who suffered a stroke in July, was on the sidelines cheering the Lancers.
Retired SM East principal Karl Krawitz (in blue cap), who suffered a stroke in July, was on the sidelines cheering the Lancers.