Some people in the room probably though he was being glib, but Shawnee Mission East head football coach Dustin Delaney chose his words carefully that May afternoon when he met his players for the first time.
“I want to win a state championship,” he told the team. “I believe that’s what I was brought here to do.”
That goal might have struck many as unrealistic six months ago. Delaney was taking the reins of a team that had lost the head coach who breathed life into the program and was losing its NCAA DI-bound quarterback – not to mention the fact that Delaney was going to be radically shifting SM East’s offensive system.
But today? Today you’d be hard pressed to find an SM East fan who doesn’t think the Lancers have a legitimate shot at the 2013 6A crown.
“People thought I was full of it or crazy when the team first met,” Delaney said. “I talked about winning a state championship the first day because I believe that’s our ultimate goal – this season, and every year after.”
With the best record in the Sunflower League and the most wins in school history already under his belt, no one thinks Delaney is full of it anymore. But his Lancers have a tough test ahead of them Friday if they want to take the indisputable title of best team in school history. The 1988 and 2001 SM East squads both made sub-state appearances. No SM East team has ever advance to the state title game.
And standing between the Lancers and school history is an Olathe North team that the Lancers barely edged in September, when Dominique Atkinson recorded a fourth quarter safety that gave the Lancers the chance to score a touchdown with just a minute remaining to take a 23-22 lead and then the win.
To beat them again, Delaney says his team will need to maintain the composure that has marked their performance all season long. And, he says, energy from a big crowd would be a big help as well.
“Our kids are mature, they’re good at handling the excitement,” Delaney said. “We want to give them some energy to feed off of. We had a huge crowd versus Free State, and you could see the boost it gave them. We want to see that again Friday at North.”