The scoreboard didn't show it, but the Pioneers had taken control against Olathe North.
It was the second quarter and the Pioneers were down 10-0, but now they were winning field position and forcing punts. They had left behind two early turnovers and a blocked punt, and were moving the ball offensively.
There wasn't anything to show for it yet, but it just felt like points were coming. This was where Leavenworth was supposed to shake off the early mistakes and play the type of football that has them sitting with their best start in decades. They did it last week, they could do it tonight.
But the game started going off script on North's last drive of the half — radically. After being stuffed all quarter, North's running backs started racing free.
"Schematically there were some things there with their counter play," said Coach Kopecky. "We had trouble stopping them. The middle linebacker play wasn't good. It was just a bad night for us."
The gut punch was a long touchdown run that wiped away their momentum and sent the Pioneers into the locker room facing a 17-point deficit.
"Some of the stuff [I told them in the locker room] probably can't be said in the paper, but I was pretty P.O.-ed at the time," said Kopecky.
Whatever fire Kopecky was able to light in the locker room, it was promptly put out on North's first third-quarter drive. Again, the Eagles ran wild and shredded the Pioneer defense and spirit. In the end, Olathe North won big 33-6.
"If we knew what the problem was, we'd obviously stop it," said Kopecky. "A lot of times when you lose a game like this people start doubting and pointing fingers and all that. But we're going to stay together as a team. People on the outside can say what they want, but no one is giving up on this group of guys."
The Pioneers came out flat for the second straight week, fumbling on their first two drives and then having a punt blocked on their third possession. Running back Jason Randall could never get it going Friday, finishing with 36 yards on 15 carries a week after rushing for 200 plus against Olathe Northwest.
Despite two early turnovers and a blocked punt, the Pioneer defense kept the score close early. They held the Eagles to a field goal and touchdown in three first quarter drives, all of which started in Pioneer territory.
Leavenworth's best scoring opportunity came when the game was still competitive on a second quarter drive. The Pioneers were moving the ball, but Kopecky elected to try a 30-yard field goal on fourth and 3. Judson Cole's kick sailed right.
Most of the second half was for posterity. The Pioneers finally got on the board at the five-minute mark of the fourth when backup quarterback Landry Hodges connected with Eli Keppler for a seven-yard touchdown.
The senior receiver pulled in eight balls for 155 yards and the lone score. Cole was 8-for-16 passing, 98 yards and two turnovers. He also led the team in rushing with 39 yards on 10 carries.
Leavenworth hosts Shawnee Mission West at 7 p.m. Friday for its homecoming game.
"Bouncing back next week will be a challenge," Kopecky said. "But we have great captains and great leaders. No one is giving up on this team."