Going in against an Olathe East team that was five points from being undefeated, Leavenworth needed to do all the little things right to have a chance for a second straight upset.
The opposite transpired: Leavenworth matched East in the big things, like running the ball and playing good defense. But they got killed in the little things department, incurring untimely penalties, falling for trick plays, and getting beat in special teams.
At the end of the first half, the Pioneers trailed 18-0. Had a few little things gone differently, Leavenworth might’ve actually led.
They were able to fight back in the third quarter and pull within five, but East erased their gains late and ended up with a 31-13 win.
“I’m disappointed for our kids because I thought they came out and gave a great effort,” said Leavenworth head coach Mark Littrell. “Olathe East is a good team, and they had to fight for everything they got tonight.”
Leavenworth’s defense held East’s offense mostly in check. But at multiple points when the defense had backed East into a corner, Hawks coach Jeff Meyers opened his bag of tricks, and his players executed.
There was a deftly executed fake punt in the second quarter that went for a 57-yard score and put East up 11-0.
Later, on a crucial drive in the fourth quarter and East’s lead down to just five, Meyers again went to the back pages of the playbook with a fake reverse wheel route that went for a score and stifled Leavenworth’s momentum after they had cut it to a five-point game.
On Leavenworth’s first play of their next drive, they fumbled, giving East a short field and icing the game.
Aside from trick plays, the other thing Leavenworth got burned on was the whistle. The offensive line was hit with numerous holding penalties that put the offense in long-yardage situations.
But the most costly penalty came in with just under two minutes left in the first half and the score 11-0. The Pioneers defense had stuffed East deep in their own territory, setting up a punting situation and a fantastic opportunity for Leavenworth to avenge earlier mistakes and go into halftime with the momentum.
East’s punter shanked the kick, and it appeared Leavenworth would start inside their opponent’s 40. But a late flag was thrown – personal foul for knocking down the center – giving East a first down.
The Hawks would march down the field, score a touchdown with seconds left, and go into halftime up three scores. Littrell says the refs blew the call, explaining that once the center goes downfield and starts blocking, he’s no longer protected.
All together, the trick plays and penalties put the Pioneers behind the eight ball early against a team they couldn’t afford to make mistakes against. Aside from those two things, the underdog Pioneers matched the Hawks pound-for-pound.
Page 2 of 2 - Leavenworth, now 2-4, enters district play beginning next Friday verses Lawrence. Wyandotte and Lawrence Free State round out Leavenworth’s district. The four teams will play each other round-robin, with the top two teams advancing to the playoffs.
- Blowing strong from south to north, the wind was a factor. Landry Hodges couldn’t get the feel on his deep ball for much of the night, throwing it short when going against the wind, and overthrowing when he had the wind at his back.
- Olathe East’s student section was loud, sizable, and very pink. Doing a ‘pink-out’ for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, they’d drum the bleachers by jumping up and down in unison to pump up the defense. .