For 20 seconds Friday, the Leavenworth and Shawnee Mission West football teams stood on equal footing.
Yet, unfortunately for the Pioneers, that was as long as it lasted.
The visiting Vikings returned the opening kickoff to midfield before throwing a 49-yard touchdown bomb. With less than half a minute off the game clock, the Pioneers found themselves down 7-0.
"Oh my gosh, we worked all week on how great they are at running the ball and then they go right over the top to start," LV coach Kevin Kopecky said. "It was a good call on their part and it's hard to battle back from."
When the final 59 minutes and 40 seconds of regulation melted away, Leavenworth had dropped its second straight game by the score of 38-20.
"Our kids played hard in the second half and never quit battling," Kopecky said. "I've never doubted these kids effort-wise, but we have to quit making mistakes. We have to be ready to go at the beginning of the game."
Following the poor start, the Pioneers answered with a seven-play drive that ended with a Judson Cole 22-yard field goal. Running back Jason Randall keyed the attack with a 52-yard catch and run.
But Leavenworth never got closer than that as West went on to score the next 21 points. The first strike came three minutes after the LV field goal, when the Vikings rushed in a five-yard TD run on fourth down.
The proceeding Pioneer possession became a turnover at its own 20 yard-line, and West punched in another fourth-down run, this time from 14-yards out.
For its final first-half score, the Vikings put together a four-yard TD pass with 19 seconds left in the second quarter to build a 28-3 advantage.
Coming out of the break, the Pioneers assembled a lengthy drive, but could only squeeze out another Cole field goal for its efforts — this one from 28-yards out.
"We had a good drive to answer the start, but had to settle for a field goal," Kopecky said. "You look at the scoreboard now and if the two field goals we made had been touchdowns, it's a different game. It's a would've, should've type of thing."
West delivered another big blow though on its following possession — its third touchdown run of the day — which effectively ended any sort of Leavenworth comeback and put the score at 35-6.
The Pioneers did receive a long touchdown throw from Cole to Izaiah Ross in the third quarter that covered 39 yards, and a 16-yard TD pass from Landry Hodges to Jeff George in the fourth. Yet, that was the extent of the team's rally.
The final Vikings score was a 42-yard field goal with four minutes left in the game.
Page 2 of 2 - "It's just huge not to get touchdowns," the LV coach said. "Yeah, you like the points but when they are scoring touchdowns and you have to settle for three, it's disheartening."
Cole finished the game 11-for-15 for 175 yards through the air plus a touchdown and interception. Randall led the team in rushing with 99 yards on 16 carries and ended the night with 207 total yards.
Eli Keppler caught three passes for 58 yards and Ross had 77 yards total receiving on four catches, one of which were touchdowns. George had five catches and a TD. Leavenworth, 3-3, begins its district play Friday with a 7 p.m. game at Lawrence.
"Honestly, we have to erase these first six weeks, good and bad, with playoffs starting next week," Kopecky said. "We have some really good teams in our district, so we are going to have to play some really good football to get back to the regional playoffs. But this is the most important time of the year and we are excited about it."