It was a gutsy call.
The team knew it as they lined up on the five yard line. It was double overtime in the sub-state championship game. The scoreboard read 34-35. Olathe North was in the lead.
The Lancers needed one point to tie. They were going for two — to win.
The ball was snapped. Senior Gunnar Englund pitched out right to senior Sam Huffman, who already had two touchdowns on the night. Huffman took two steps towards the sideline, then paused. He cut inside, dodged two defenders and lunged forward into the endzone.
The student section erupted into screams and a shower of confetti. Huffman sprinted around the field, ripping off his helmet as his entire team stormed after him. The senior took a victory lap before flopping onto his back on the field as students began to hop the fence to join their team on the field.
The Lancers were going to state.
Before the game even began, both teams knew that last night’s sub state championship game would be brutal. Both teams entered the game undefeated. The Eagles boasted 2013 Sunflower League Offensive Player of the Year Venus Triplett, who had already notched 21 touchdowns on the season. Facing off against Triplett was the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, senior Kyle Ball, who had 102 tackles and 10 sacks going into the game.
With two highly-charged offenses, the game was expected to be a shoot-out. But after Huffman ran in a touchdown to start the game, the first half quickly became a defensive battle. The Lancers drove close to the Eagles’ endzone, but struggled to finish, ending one drive on a fourth down on three yard line.
In the second half, the Olathe North defense gave the Eagles the spark they needed to rally offensively. After scoring off of an interception from Englund in the middle of the third quarter, the Eagles blocked a punt, putting themselves in scoring position on the Lancers’ 15 yard line. From there, Triplett was able to drive up the middle to put the Eagles up 14-7.
The Lancers needed a score to regain momentum. Huffman delivered. The running back broke through a hole along the left side of the field for his second touchdown. But with a missed point after, the Lancers still trailed heading into the final quarter.
They found their offensive answer in junior Wyatt Edmisten, who led the next drive and rushed for a touchdown, and a two-point conversion. The Lancers took a 21-14 lead.
Olathe North answered. After the Lancer defense held strong for several drives, the Eagles used passing plays to work their way into the red zone. And on fourth down, Olathe North quarterback Cole Murphy floated a pass into the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
Each team would have four downs at the ten yard line to score. After three plays, East scored off a drive from Edmisten. Then Murphy scrambled for a touchdown, and the game was tied again.
This time, the Lancers deferred and let Olathe North start with the ball. They scored after two plays. It was the Lancers’ turn again.
On third down, Edmisten dove forward onto a dogpile of linemen. He extended the ball just far enough, and the referees raised their arms for a touchdown. Head coach Dustin Delaney motioned to his offense from the sidelines — stay on the field.
Then came the two-point conversion. Then came Huffman’s victory lap around endzone, the students charging onto the field. Then came the trophy, which every player tried to get a hand on as the team took their second-to-last post-game picture of the season.
And for the second year in a row, the Lancers were sub-state champions.
“Tonight was the definition of a family win,” Englund said. “Our motto going into the game was ‘One heartbeat,’ and we played with one big heartbeat tonight.”