34-35, Olathe North leads. A tight game to the end in the bitter cold of a Kansas fall evening. Coach Dustin Delaney needs to make a decision: whether or not to go for a two point conversion for the win. Delaney elects to go for two. The offense stays on the field, and the play is called. Senior Quarterback Gunnar Englund receives the snap and pitches the ball out to the right to senior Wing Sam Huffman. The crowd watches anxiously as Huffman cuts his way through a paper thin hole to find the endzone, punching the Lancers’ ticket to the state championship game.
“The play was called ‘rocket’, just basically a toss to the right,” then-junior Will Kost said. “Olathe North’s defense picked up on it and they all knew it was coming and somehow it got in.”
Another junior last year, Charlie Jensen, had his own take on the play that likely won’t be forgotten by any of the football players last year.
“We all just kind of had this feeling that we needed to make a do-or-die decision and that is exactly what Coach Delaney did,” Jensen said. “There was no doubt in my mind that we would get in the endzone on that two-point conversion. It gives me goosebumps just talking about it, we just knew there was something in the air. We just knew that we were going to do this.”
This year’s goal remains the same: win another state championship. Now both seniors, Kost and Jensen know what they need to do to get to the state championship game. Even though the team lost 16 starters, including stars Kyle Ball and Gunnar Englund, they bring back 12 guys who played consistent varsity time last year.
“Those guys were a big part of the team last year, but that was last year, this year we don’t have superstars,” Kost said. “We are all a team together, we have learned that everything works out for a reason, and we just have to work as a unit this year.”
The 12 guys returning are going to be a big part in forming that unit. Although the team lost a bunch of seniors, the Lancers still believe that they can be a contender this season. Not only is the team motivated to win state again, they are also getting motivation from an unlikely source: doubters.
“At this point everyone else in the Sunflower League and the state of Kansas is kind of like ‘they lost everyone so now they aren’t going to be good,’” said Jensen, “I think the pressure now is that we are here to prove ourselves.”
Even with all of the graduating seniors last year, both Kost and Jensen say that the team can rally behind young talent and returning players to stay on top. They also stress that all games are going to be battles and there will be no blowouts like last season.
“There is no reason we can’t win state this year,” Jensen said. “We definitely have the talent, and obviously we have a great coach.”