It was an odd scene on the SM North District field Thursday after SM East wrapped up its third consecutive district title by beating SM North 56-34.
The game crew from 610 Sports Radio pulled aside Dustin Delaney for an interview with the winning head coach — and also losing quarterback Will Schneider, who they named player of the game. It was the first time the station had ever bestowed player of the game honors on a member of the losing squad, and a recognition of how Schneider and the Indians had posed an unexpected challenge to the defending state champions and their cross-town rivals.
“It’s the worst we’ve played all year,” Delaney said of his team’s final outing before the playoffs begin next week. “Offensively, defensively, everything was terrible. If we play like that next week, we’ll get beat in the first round of the playoffs, there’s no two ways about it.”
As has been their habit all season, the Lancers got out to a quick start, putting up 21 first quarter points that made it look like SM East would roll over 3-5 SM North just like it had Wyandotte and Harmon the previous two weeks.
But Schneider, the Indians crafty junior quarterback, sparked a surprising comeback for the Indians as the second quarter began, marching them down the field for two touchdowns. The Lancers scored a touchdown of their own to make it 28-14, but SM North responded with another long drive that the Lancers stopped on the one-yard line as the half drew to a close.
“We won the second quarter — almost won it with three touchdowns,” SM North coach Ben Bartlett said.
The Lancers offense continued to plow ahead in the second half, giving SM East a comfortable lead as time wound down. But Schneider’s slipperiness in the pocket allowed the Indians to find the endzone twice more, giving SM North 34 points on the night — more than SM East has allowed all season.
“I’m proud of these guys. They fought. I don’t think a lot of people gave us a chance in this game. And I think that motivated us,” Bartlett said. “The scoreboard definitely tells you who wins the game. But there are some many other factors that go into who the true winners are, I feel that our boys won the game, if not on the scoreboard, in just about every other way for us — that was a positive.”
The Indians are expected to be the eighth seed in the 6A East tournament bracket, which would likely pit them against undefeated Lawrence in the opening round. Many experts put the Chesty Lions as the team with the best chance of taking home this year’s title.
Schneider said he knows his team will face a big challenge next week. But, he said, he thinks his teammates are feeling some end-of-the-year momentum.
“It’s great to see that at the end of the season, we’ve finally hit that stride,” he said. “We’ve got to come out with the same intensity we had… I think we’re going to be ready for whoever it is.”