On Friday morning, no SM East football team had ever started the season 9-0. On Friday morning, no Sunflower League team had ever scored a combined 455 points in the regular season and district play. After SM East’s 62-12 win over SM North Friday night, the 2014 Lancers had achieved both feats.
Friday’s dominating performance wrapped up a perfect 3-0 record in district play and earned the Lancers the top seed in the Eastern half of the state 6A playoff bracket. Sunflower League rival Olathe North, also 9-0, is the second seed in the East; last year’s state winner, Derby, is the top seed in the West. The Lancers will face the eight seed, Sunflower League rival Lawrence, next Friday at SM North District stadium.
SM East head coach Dustin Delaney left his starters in until early in the fourth quarter, longer than he might have normally given his team’s sizable lead in the second half. But, Delaney said, the early blowouts against Harmon and Wyandotte had prevented his starters from getting late-game experience to draw on as they head into the playoffs.
“It was good to get those game reps in,” he said. “We needed to get a little rhythm. Our guys hadn’t been sore in games, and we needed to feel what it was like to play tired. We needed to feel what it’s like to play four quarters, because it’s going to take four quarters to win in the playoffs.”
SM North kept the game interesting in the first half, with Sunflower League-leading passer Will Schneider hitting favorite target Nick Perez for a 57-yard touchdown in the first quarter to cut the Lancers’ lead to 14-6. Another long pass set up the Indians’ second score of the night, a rush from back Terrick Bell that made it 21-12.
But SM East’s defense began to wear down SM North’s line, and by the second half Schneider was having a difficult time operating in the pocket and finding open receivers. With the Indians’ potent pass offense stymied, SM North couldn’t produce any additional scoring opportunities.
“Tonight’s obviously disappointing because we got behind and we weren’t able to get back in it like before,” said SM North head coach Ben Bartlett after the game. “We do have another game left, and not a lot of teams can say that and those guys earned it by winning the past two weeks. You never know what’s going to happen, if you go out an execute like you’re capable of. And we have yet to fully play football like we’re capable of.”
SM East’s offense moved freely from its first snap, and save for a couple of sloppy plays that resulted in turnovers, looked to be in excellent shape to face playoff competition. Gunnar Englund found Sky Tate on the Lancers’ first drive for the night’s opening score. Tate would catch another touchdown pass to open up scoring in the second half. Running back Wyatt Edmisten had another standout performance as well, with three touchdown runs. Sam Huffman, Mike Bamford and Alec Dean each scored once for the Lancers, and Englund had a touchdown on a keeper in addition to his passing scores.
“We’ve had a lot of different kids score all year,” Delaney said of the team’s scoring record. “It’s really a team effort — we haven’t had one kid that’s been shining over the others.”
Delaney said Lawrence should prove a solid competitor in the opening week of the playoffs. With the Sunflower League’s leading rusher in J.D. Woods and a junior outside linebacker named Price Morgan who has already attracted a good deal of interest from D1 college programs, the Lions feature elite talent. That talent hasn’t translated into consistent success for the 5-4 Lions this year, but they showed Friday that their offense has plenty of pop when it’s working well. Lawrence handily defeated Olathe East 66-28 to earn its spot on the state bracket.
“They’ve got great athletes and they’re big,” Delaney told his team after the game.
SM North will face Olathe North in its opening game of the playoffs. That game will be next Friday at the Olathe District Activity Center.