Early turnovers prove costly for North in 20-13 loss to Shawnee Mission West
A recent Nike athletic campaign put forward the commonly accepted axiom ‘’It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
The Shawnee Mission North football team might want to tell the Nike brand managers to rethink their ad campaigns.
A pair of huge first-quarter mistakes proved the difference in the game between North and Shawnee Mission West Friday night at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium, as the West defense ran back two fumble returns for touchdowns in the first five minutes on its way to a 20-13 Viking victory.
Already up 7-0 off a 32-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Brett Sterbach, West senior defensive lineman Sean Dilley stripped the ball out of North senior quarterback Ryan Theis’ hands and returned it 23 yards for a score, making it 13-0 with 7:18 left to play in the first quarter. Seven seconds later on the game clock, North senior tailback Matthew Maynard had a difficult time with a handoff exchange and the ball bounced right into Viking junior defensive lineman Frankie Zumalt’s hands. Zumalt then returned it 17 yards for a touchdown, and West had a 20-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.
Despite the huge hole they dug for themselves, the Indians replied with perhaps the best scoring drive of the evening.
Senior wide receiver/return specialist Mason Perez put North in a good spot when his 40-yard kickoff return set the Indians up with a first-and-10 at the West 45. Ten plays and four-and-half minutes later, senior tailback Brock Burrows plunged over the goal line from 2 yards out for North’s first score, bringing the Indians within 20-6.
The North defense tightened after that with quarterback sacks by senior defensive lineman Hunter DeGraeve and senior linebacker Colin McCarty and forced two more turnovers before halftime.
The second of those turnovers came when Perez, now playing defensive back, intercepted a pass by West senior quarterback Armani Williams at the North 15. Perez then sped through the West offense, sprinting 63 yards before eventually being tackled at the West 22-yard line with 33.6 seconds left in the half.
On the ensuing play, North quarterback Ryan Theis connected with Perez on a 22-yard touchdown strike in the front left corner of the end zone. Junior kicker Armando Contreras connected on the extra point and the Indians were down by just a touchdown, 20-13, at halftime.
However, the first half had delivered some bad news for North. First, senior fullback Mitch Paden — the Indians’ most consistent rusher of the season — re-aggravated a leg injury from the summer and did not return for the second half. In addition, Perez — the Indians’ biggest playmaker of the first half — injured his collarbone on the touchdown catch and also had to miss the last two quarters.
The North defense proved just as staunch in the second half as it had been in the first — even forcing another West turnover. However, without Paden or Perez, the Indians could not move the ball as well and went no further than the West 23. The Vikings were able to convert on a crucial fourth-and-1 with 1:33 left in the game to seal the victory.
After the game, North coach Dennis Grayless expressed his frustration with the Indians’ less-than-stellar start.
“After the game, we talked about how we can’t dig ourselves a hole like that,” Grayless said. “To be completely frank, one of the things we stress in practice is that how we prepare for practice is how we’re going to perform on Friday. We struggle a lot on getting to the practice field and being ready to practice right off the bat. The habits you develop are the habits you’re going to carry through to Friday night. Tonight was a good example of how we didn’t come out tough.”
Theis led North offensively by going 10-for-22 for 114 yards and one TD in the passing game.
The Indians are now 1-3 on the season and will take on the Lawrence Free State Firebirds at 7 p.m. Friday at Free State Stadium.