This isn't one Leavenworth is likely to forget anytime soon. Ditto for the defending state champs, Shawnee Mission West.
The Pioneers torched West's defense with their second-half rushing attack and took advantage of critical Viking mistakes on the final drive to pull off a 37-34 upset Thursday.
“This is a huge win for the kids, the program and the school,” said Leavenworth first-year head coach Mark Littrell. “The kids played focused and with great effort. Great performance.”
West had a chance to win or at least tie with under a minute remaining and first and goal. But that's where things got sloppy again for the Vikings (who turned it over four times).
On first down, an end zone pass went through a receiver's hands. Then on second down, quarterback AJ Verdini tripped after the snap and was tagged down. With the clock running and no time outs, Verdini spiked it, settling for a game-tying field goal.
But West's kicker hooked it left, setting off raucous celebration on the sideline and in the scattered group of blue-clad fans that made the 45-minute trip.
It wasn't supposed to go like this, of course. Leavenworth came into the game struggling to score points, and West, while having lost a large core from 2012, were still the defending state champions.
Heading into the second half, it looked like West might cruise after shutting down the Pioneer offense for the entire second quarter.
But after the Pioneers' first drive of the second half sputtered, Leavenworth began lining up wide receiver Isaiah Ross in the backfield next to running back Jason Randall.
The adjustment worked brilliantly. With Ross and Randall in the twins formation on either side of quarterback Landry Hodges, Leavenworth began running the ball effectively to both sides.
The Pioneers scored on three consecutive possessions, turning West's 28-16 halftime lead into a 37-34 Leavenworth lead early in the fourth quarter, where it would stay.
“We put Isaiah [Ross] back there because we wanted to get him the ball, and that was how we could do it,” Littrell said. “This is the most carries he's gotten for us this year.”
Ross finished with six carries for 84 yards, a touchdown, and an interception late that helped Leavenworth shut out the Vikings in the fourth quarter.
Randall, the Sunflower League's leading rusher coming into play this week, had 20 carries for 179 yards and three touchdowns.
Previous to Thursday's game, Ross had just six carries on the season and was used almost exclusively as a receiver. But now it looks like the Pioneers have found a new weapon using the speedy junior in the backfield as a secondary option to complement the already-dynamic Randall.
Page 2 of 2 - Now 2-3, Leavenworth will look to carry their momentum into next week's matchup at Olathe East.
Game Notes: West receiver Andre Maloney suffered a possible concussion in the first half. According to a member of West's game day staff, Maloney was confused when a teammate tried talking to Maloney following his second quarter touchdown catch. Maloney reportedly didn't recognize his teammate. An ambulance was called onto the track and took the Sunflower league's leading wide receiver to an area hospital.
- Maybe it was because it was a Thursday game, but West's student section wasn't that big, especially for a team that won it all last year. They were spirited, though. One superfan had to do 'crowd-surfing pushups' after every West touchdown, one for every Viking point.
- Leavenworth's sideline was much more vocal than West's, with players encouraging teammates and coaches yelling out instruction. You could feel the energy as the upset brewed in the second half.
Leavenworth: 30-yard field goal, 3-0 Leavenworth
Leavenworth: Jason Randall 36-yard rush, XP good, 4:00, 10-0 Leavenworth
West: Rashaun Owens 19-yard rush, XP good, :30, 10-7 Leavenworth
West: Andre Maloney 63-yard catch, XP good, 11:00, 14-10 West
West: Justin Hobbs 6-yard run, XP good, 4:40, 21-10 West
Leavenworth: Anthony Hunt 15-yard interception return, XP blocked, 2:05, 21-16 West
West: AJ Verdini 1-yard rush, XP good, :23, 28-16 West
Leavenworth: Jason Randall 60-yard rush, XP good, 8:30, 28-23 West
West: Tarik Watson 15-yard run, XP no good, 5:11, 34-23 West
Leavenworth: Isaiah Ross 65-yard rush, XP good, 34-30 West.
Leavenworth: Jason Randall 15-yard rush, XP good, 37-34 Leavenworth.