Lancers sprint past Cougars in 6A playoffs
There’s no denying Shawnee Mission East’s speed.
At almost every skill position, the Lancer football team has speed to burn, and Friday night they proved it by jumping out to an early lead and creating distance between themselves and the Shawnee Mission Northwest Cougars. Using their swiftness to their advantage, the Lancers pulled away to a 38-21 victory Friday night at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium to advance past the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
“Their strengths probably matched up to places that are not our strengths,” said Northwest football head coach Aaron Barnett after the game. “They took advantage of it early and capitalized. We were just not consistent enough on offense. I think it’s probably a good reflection of our whole season — inconsistency. At times we looked very good, and then a couple of drives we didn’t look very good. It was a little microcosm of us during the year.”
The Lancers scored on their first possession, moving the ball down the field on long passes of 27 and 36 yards from senior quarterback Dakota Collins. East senior fullback Jeff Cole opened the scoring with a 2-yard run for a touchdown and East led 7-0 five minutes into the game. Their second touchdown came on a 35-yard pass play from Collins to senior wide receiver Logan Rose and East led 14-0 after one quarter.
Northwest struck back in the beginning of the second quarter, capping off a nine-play, 76-yard drive with a thundering touchdown run from senior running back Austin Vanderpool to make the game 14-7 with 9:42 left in the half.
However, East displayed its speed just seconds later when junior wide receiver Connor Relihan hauled in a sprint pass on the left side and then sped past all defenders 80 yards for a touchdown to give the Lancers back their 14-point edge.
The Cougars had a chance to pull back to within seven as the first half came to a close, but — on first-and-10 on the East 20 — Cougar senior quarterback Colton Dirks’ pass into the end zone was intercepted by Rose of East, ending the threat.
East extended its lead to 21 early in the second half when Rose scored on another short touchdown run, making it 28-7 Lancers.
This time, though, Northwest had an answer. Using combinations of short passes, the Cougars marched 59 yards to get down to the East 9. From there, senior running back Danny Manning powered the ball in for a touchdown to make the score 28-14 with 5:06 left in the quarter.
Yet East’s big play ability struck again. The Lancers needed just three plays to go 80 yards — the last 35 on a bruising touchdown run by senior tailback Jake Libeer — and East was back in command at 35-14.
Still, Northwest was not to be dissuaded. The Cougars answered with nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive that lasted through the end of the third quarter and into the first play of the fourth. On that play — a fourth-and-12 from the East 21 — Dirks rolled far to the right, then threw back against his body to the left side of the field where Manning stood open in the backfield to grab the pass. Manning then went 21 yards untouched into the end zone and, with the extra point by junior kicker Alex Allen, the Cougars were within 35-21 with 11:49 left in the game.
However, the Lancers were able to use up much of the clock in the fourth quarter on a field goal scoring drive and the Cougars could not put together any serious scoring threats the rest of the way.
Dirks led the way offensively for the Cougars, connecting on 15 of 24 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown with one interception, while also carrying the ball nine times for 22 yards. Manning was the leading Cougar rusher on the evening, carrying the ball 17 times for 98 yards and a touchdown while also hauling in one reception for 21 yards and another score. Senior Blake Evans led all receivers in yards with three catches for 48, while senior fullback Caulin Pendleton carried the ball five times for 47 yards while also hauling in four receptions for 47 yards.
The Cougars finish the season 4-6.