Marisa has been a photographer on the Harbinger staff for 3 years and the online photo editor for 2 years. Along with photography, she enjoys reading and painting and staying caught up on current events. Read Full »
Recording of live broadcast commentated by Julia Poe and Andrew McKittrick:
Story by Julia Poe:
The student section erupts. Down on the Lancer 30 yard line, senior Dominique Atkinson thrusts the ball into the air as the referees signal that possession belongs to East. It’s the third fumble that the Lancers have recovered in their 36-14 Regionals victory over Leavenworth.
The fumbling trend began in Leavenworth’s second offensive drive, when the ball slipped out of a running back’s hands as he was dragged to the ground. The Lancers had already scored one touchdown on a faked toss that gave Sam Huffman an eight-yard touchdown run.
With field position on the 35 yard line after the fumble, the Lancers marched for two first downs before using the same play to give Huffman another touchdown. Two missed point afters gave East a 12-0 lead, and the game seemed to be turning into a blowout.
Then Leavenworth senior Jason Randall came alive.
Before the game, Randall led the Sunflower League with 1,285 rushing yards. After a quiet first quarter, Randall exploded onto the scene and led Leavenworth to two consecutive touchdowns. Approaching the end of the first half, Leavenworth led 14-12. It looked as though the scales were tipping in favor of Leavenworth; in the end, however, these would be the last points Leavenworth would score.
The Lancers answered with their typical running offense, led by senior Luke Taylor. Taylor carved up the middle of the field, running in another Lancer touch down and two point conversion.
With a lead of 20-12, the Lancer defense forced another fumble and Collin Burns secured a field goal. This stretched the lead to 23-12 as the half drew to a close. The team headed into the locker room with a comfortable lead, but with another concern on their mind — recently injured senior Mitchell Tyler.
Tyler was left sprawled on his back after a severe hit to the head knocked him flat and displaced his helmet in the second quarter. Head coach Dustin Delaney and his team faced the possible loss of a player who contributed to every aspect of the team as a kicker, running back, wide receiver and linebacker.
The student section remained seated until Tyler slowly rose to his feet, flinging off a glove and limping to the bench.
A helmet-to-helmet tackle meant that East received 15 yards and a first down. It also meant a risk of concussion and the possibility that Tyler wouldn’t be allowed to play the rest of the game. Slumped on the bench, it appeared that Tyler would be sitting out for the rest of the half.
However, at the beginning of the second half, Tyler stood beside his teammates on the sideline with his helmet on. He wasn’t returned to his position as a running back — instead, senior linebacker Ryan Carter filled the position and ran for two touchdowns.
But Tyler was allowed back on to secure the Lancers’ point afters, and finished the game with a run for over 30 yards down the left sideline. With Tyler back in the game, the Lancers were able to avoid a second major injury, after facing their first playoff game without senior quarterback Christian Blessen.
Blessen continues to nurse a back injury, which kept him from playing a majority of the game against SM North last week. Blessen didn’t suit up for the Leavenworth game, putting the responsibility solely on junior quarterback Gunnar Englund.
Englund ran an offense that focused mainly on running throughout the night. He had several major pass attempts — including a 35 yard pass that senior Will Mitchell bobbled and dropped in the endzone — but was unable to connect effectively. Despite these difficulties, Englund’s ability to run and execute pitch plays led the team to a successful 36-14 victory. The junior ran out the last two minutes of the game by taking a knee, securing the Lancers’ first ever Regionals title.
Gallery by Marisa Walton:
Next week, the Lancers will compete with the Olathe East Hawks for the Sectional title. The game will be away at Olathe. Can’t make it to the game? Watch the broadcast here.