By Michael Kraske
The Nut Cup. How the annual Sunflower League showdown between the class 6A defending state champion SM East Lancers and the SM West Vikings got this name, nobody is quite sure.
But one thing everyone was sure of Friday was that it was a big game.
With both teams going into the game with perfect 3-0 records, the stakes for both teams were high. Those high stakes may have contributed to the jitters that led to sloppy play throughout the night, with five total fumbles. But in the end SM East prevailed 42-21, keeping its now 17-game win steak alive.
For its first three games of the season, the Lancers had allowed just 20 points (SM Northwest scored all those last week after SM East shut out both Gardner Edgerton and SM South in its first two games of the year).
On Friday night, the Vikings doubled that total, but it wasn’t enough to knock off the defending state champs.
Lancer head coach Dustin Delaney pointed to his team’s physica “grind-it-out-on-the-ground” play as the key to the win.
“That’s what we’re going to do, and that’s going to start with our offensive line, and our backs are going to run hard, run people over,” Delaney said. “You know, we don’t make a lot of guys miss, but we’re going to run hard every single play.”
Neither team scored in the first quarter. SM East junior wide receiver Sky Tate broke the drought with the game’s first touchdown in the second quarter. Then, senior Luke Heisdorffer scooped up a Vikings fumble for a touchdown return, and the Lancers were off to the races.
SM West made it 14-7, but their chances soured with their starting quarterback going down with an injury.
The half ended with SM East ahead 21-7.
In the second half, SM West kept the ball on the ground, opting not to pass even once on its last four drives.
But SM East kept its offensive attack in gear. Quarterback Luke Kaiser plowed into the end zone on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line, Karl Young scored on a long run up the right sideline on an option, and Wyatt Edmisten rang up another six points with an off-tackle run from the five yard line.
Charlie Jensen, an SM East team captain and senior linebacker, said the win marked a significant moment in the East-West rivalry.
“Historically, West has been the powerhouse of Shawnee Mission and they have had the Nut Cup for the majority of the last decade,” Jensen said. “It’s just really awesome to now keep it four years in a row from an historically powerful program like West.”
To Delaney, his offensive line saved the day against a West defensive front that he regarded as one of the best in the state.
“I thought our offensive line played really well and just wore on ‘em,” Delaney said. “We were very efficient on offense. We grinded out yards when we needed to, hit some big plays when they were there, held on to the football. Our kids played really hard.”