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The kick turned end-over-end as the crowd held their breath. The Olathe North student section was quiet for the first time that night, their momentum taken by a huge East touchdown.
But when the crowd saw the ball spiraling in the direction of No. 2, they knew no one would catch him. As soon as Olathe North Safety/Wide Receiver Isaiah Simmons touched the ball, he was off. Practically untouched, his 6’3”, 205 lb frame bounded past opposing defenders. It looked almost effortless as he ran his 4.4 second 40 yard dash more than twice, reaching the end zone for a monster 98 yard kickoff return for a TD.
The Lancers weren’t able to recover from the three total return TDs by the Eagles. East’s impressive 9-2 season came to a close last Friday as East fell to Olathe North in a heartbreaking 44-30 loss, behind a stellar performance from the 4-star recruit Simmons.
Despite giving up an early lead, the Lancers were always able to keep the game in check.
Until giving up a safety late in the game led to a dagger TD that made it 44-23 with only a few minutes left in the game, East was always right in the game.
Other than two huge Simmons TD receptions, both for more than 60 yards, the Lancers got it done on the defensive side of the ball.
But the Lancer special teams unit allowed a whopping 21 points, and the East offense never really clicked. These both helped seal the win for the Eagles.
All year, the Lancers had been able to establish the run game up the middle and then open up the field with play action. But on Friday, despite a huge performance from senior running backs Wyatt Edmisten, the Lancers could never really find their rhythm on the ground.
This is due largely in part to the athletic D-line for the Eagles having a huge showing, especially in the redzone, stuffing the Lancer run game near the end zone.
The Eagles’ secondary also got the job done, limiting the pass game and consistently making open field tackles. The unit was bolstered by a phenomenal performance by Simmons.
Although they struggled finishing drives, the Lancers did not go down without a fight. Head Coach Dustin Delaney stayed true to his gutsy play calling, converting three 4th-down attempts in the first quarter alone, going 6/7 total on the night.
But the game came down to special teams play, both in the punting game and the return game.
“Coach Delaney had told us early on that [the Eagles] were a team that beats people with big plays, and unfortunately we weren’t able to contain that, ” said senior linebacker Charlie Jensen. “They had 3 kickoff returns for touchdowns, and when you dig yourself that big of a hole it’s hard to beat anyone”.
The season for the Lancers has come to a gut-wrenching close, but with a strong group of underclassmen the team looks ahead to next year.
“It’s going to be tough losing those seniors, but next year there are a lot of guys looking fill those leadership roles,” said sophomore running back Zach Yeo. “We all just feel like we have to step up and make sure we don’t finish the way we did this year.”