It was no secret that Leavenworth High School's matchup against Olathe North was going to be an uphill battle for the Pioneers from the start.
But after senior wide receiver Isaiah Ross broke off a 44-yard run to begin Leavenworth's opening drive and senior quarterback Landry Hodges finished the drive off with a keeper for the touchdown and the lead, optimism soared in Pioneer Field.
Unfortunately, it didn't last long.
The Eagles regrouped and reeled off 19 straight points to end the first half, and once they had the lead, Olathe North flew away with it.
Not that the Pioneers didn't have their chances.
"We should've won the game," head coach Mark Littrell said. "When you play teams like that, you have to be at the top of your game. Our kids played with great effort, I was happy with how hard they played, we just have to play smart all the time."
A rushing touchdown from Ross opened the second half for the Pioneers and closed the lead. But immediately after, Leavenworth failed to convert a subsequent Ross interception into points and Leavenworth's chance at the upset quickly drifted away.
Senior offensive lineman Alex Mendoza said he knows all too well that the Pioneers had their shot.
Behind Mendoza and the rest of the offensive line, senior running back Sanchez Williams was able to rush for a team-high 83 yards, with Ross following closely behind him with 73 yards on the ground. Littrell said the Pioneers presence up front was a nice change of pace, as the offensive line opened up the middle for Williams the entire night.
However, Mendoza said the Pioneers have to stop making such untimely mistakes.
"I felt like we did alright the first half, second half we came out and did way better," Mendoza said. "They were a good defensive team. We definitely could've done better, we made a lot of mistakes and that's what cost us the game."
Defensively, Leavenworth's interior fell victim to a stout Olathe North rushing attack. Behind running backs Vinnie Shabazz and Venus Triplett, the Eagles rushed for a combined 383 yards, while holding possession for more than 36 minutes of the game.
Shabazz led the Eagle offense, averaging 9.3 yards a carry en route to a 168-yard day.
"You have to play smart and you have to play assignments correctly," Littrell said. "You have your job to do and you have to do it. When you don't, they've got the athletes that they're going to break it, and that's what happened."
Now, the Pioneers continue onward. Though hanging their heads following the loss Friday night, Littrell said come Monday morning, the ill feelings will be gone.
Judging by Leavenworth's schedule, they better be.
The Pioneers next matchup is Friday against Shawnee Mission East, another one of the top programs in Kansas.
After the team's upset of Lawrence Free State last weekend, and the loss to Olathe North Friday night, Littrell said the team's game against East marks the end of the hardest section of the team's schedule.
As they approach district play, Littrell said he's unsure whether the stiff matchups the last few weeks for his team will pay off when it counts.
"We're going to find out," Littrell said. "I think the tougher competition you play, the better it makes you, and we're playing the toughest competition in the state."

 

AREA HIGH SCHOOL SCORES:

 

Lansing 20

Turner 13

 

Pleasant Ridge 6

Horton 28

 

McLouth 18

Oskaloosa 28

 

Tonganoxie 19

Bishop Ward 18

 

Basehor-Linwood 9

Eudora 7