SM North football looks forward to another big challenge in SM East
Overland Park Shawnee Mission North senior running back Marcos Garcia knows that the Indians have a tall order ahead of them to knock off SM East in tonight's Class 6A quarterfinal matchup, but no challenge has been too big for them lately.
The Indians (6-4, No. 6 in the 6A East bracket) gave up 70 points to the Lancers (9-1, No. 2) in the first half of their 77-26 Week 5 loss, and Garcia was their lone bright spot with 130 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Garcia said the Indians don't have to look any further than last week's second-round playoff win over No. 3 Lawrence High, though, to see the strides that they have made since the first half of the season. The Indians lost to the Lions, 52-26, in Week 2, but got the last laugh with a 52-49 win Friday.
North also saw its 2015 season end in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of Lawrence High, and that loss has driven Garcia and the Indians ever since.
"It's actually funny because that night, I went up to one of my coaches and I was like, 'Coach, we're coming back here and we're going to win this game next year,'" Garcia said. "Sure enough, we did. We came back and won that exact game. That felt really good for me."
Garcia was eased into action at the beginning of the season due to a hamstring injury, but has been full speed ahead ever since the first go-around against East. The senior running back has enjoyed being a key part in SM North's explosive offense, which features the state passing yards leader in Will Schneider. Schneider has thrown for 2,782 yards, and has 30 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions while spreading the ball around to a young receiving corps that includes sophomores Noah Laird, Billy Conaway and Trevon Kleint, junior Nate McCoy and senior Avante Williams.
"Will has really coached them up — off to the side even sometimes — and spent some extra time throwing balls to them after practice," SM North coach Ben Bartlett said. "They've matured a lot. I think roughly 70 percent of Will's passes are all to upperclassmen. Given the amount of stats he is putting up, that is pretty impressive for him to guide those young receivers like that."
While the Indians have averaged 39.9 points per game, the Lancers have showcased even more firepower on offense with 48.8 points per game.
"You've got to tackle. You've got to take guys to the ground," Bartlett said of what it would take to slow down the Lancers. "You've got to stay low. It goes back to the basics. If we can come out low and aggressively attack, take them to the ground and create some stops — which we didn't show ourselves too well the first time we played them — then that really opens up everything for us."
Milton Braasch highlighted the SM East ground and pound run game with three touchdowns in the Lancers' second-round win over Gardner-Edgerton, but the victory did not come easy for Dustin Delaney's squad.
Braasch punched the ball into the end zone with 33 seconds left with a game-winning two-point conversion following his third touchdown run to give the Lancers a 36-35 victory. Bartlett fully expects the Lancers to try to set the tone early again tonight, but said that their close call last week proved that an East win should not be a given.
"Gardner definitely gave them a tough game, and showed that they're not invincible," Bartlett said. "And no team is. They've got a very tough, well-oiled machine on offense that we're going to have a tough task trying to stop."
Bartlett added, "Defensively, they gave us trouble the first time we played them as far as really getting the ball rolling. We know it's not going to be an easy game for any stretch of the imagination, but the kids are excited to be continuing to play football when many teams are done right now and to also get another crack at a team that took it to them the first game. We hope that we can put up a tougher challenge this time around."
The Indians and Lancers will kick off at 7 p.m. tonight at SM North District Stadium. The winner will play either Blue Valley (10-0) or BV North (7-3) Nov. 18 in the 6A state semifinals.