The clash of Sunflower League juggernauts that high school football fans had been salivating to see will become a reality.
Operating like a finely tuned machine on Friday, SM East cruised through its Sectionals game against SM West, taking a 41-0 victory that advances the Lancers to Substate, where they’ll face 11-0 Olathe North for the second year in a row. The Eagles beat Blue Valley 27-14 on Friday.
Last year, SM East shocked Olathe North in Substate with a 37-27 win that propelled SM East to its first championship game in school history. This year’s Eagles team features much of the same talent that made them a state title favorite in 2013 — only now they’ve got another year of experience under their belts.
“If you want to go to the state championship, you have to beat the best there is,” said Lancers coach Dustin Delaney after the game. “And that’s who we’ll play next week.”
Eagles running back Venus Triplett leads the Sunflower League in rushing, and tight end Josh Moore has committed to play at Ohio State next year. Linebacker Marcel Spears has committed to Iowa State for college.
But even with all that D1 talent, the way the Lancers have played over the past two weeks, next week’s game looks to be a match of undefeated equals. SM West entered Friday’s contest with a five game win streak, but looked badly outmatched from the first snap. The Lancers, on the other hand, operated efficiently from the get to, never allowing SM West’s offense to get a toehold and implementing a brutal running attack that kept the clock ticking and the ball out of the Vikings’ hands.
Relying on running back Wyatt Edmisten’s ability to fight his way through the SM West line and the effectiveness of the option game to break big runs around the edges, the Lancers made swift work of the Vikings, wrapping up the game in just over two hours. Quarterback Gunnar Englund was a centerpiece of Friday’s ground production as well, keeping the ball for 129 rushing yards and two touchdowns. In fact, the Lancers didn’t complete a single pass, and only made a few attempts through the air.
“Our offensive line was pushing it well and everyone was running the ball well,” Englund said after the game.
Edmisten finished the night with more than 150 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Jackson Gossick scored twice for SM East — dropping the ball near the sideline and picking it up again in mid-sprint for one touchdown.
SM East will host next week’s game against Olathe North. The game will kickoff at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 at SM North District Stadium.
Friday’s results present an interesting match up in the western division Substate game as well. Hutchinson, where Delaney served as offensive coordinator from 2006 to 2009, helping lead the Salt Hawks to four consecutive state titles, upset Derby, which beat SM East in last year’s title game. They’ll face Lawrence Free State, which defeated 8-2 Junction City Friday. SM East beat Free State 42-14 in early October. In a somewhat confounding set of circumstances, the Firebirds are for the first time competing in the western half of the 6A bracket, despite the fact that they’re only a couple of miles away from Lawrence High, which remains in the east. After Leavenworth dropped to 5A for the 2014 season, the KSHSAA moved Free State because it was the westernmost team in the eastern division.
Brian Libeer’s video recap of the Sectionals victory over SM West is below: