Three-year starting linebacker Matt Plank and his Gardner Edgerton teammates, 5-3, have rolled through the second half of the schedule and have already clinched the Kansas 6A, District 4 championship as part of a four-game winning streak. On Friday, they play host to Olathe Northwest in the district finale. The Star goes Four Downs with Plank.
Q. 1. Why has this team played better over the past four weeks?
A. “We had a lot of guys that were just getting into a starting role and hadn’t played varsity football before. They were still getting used to the speed of the game. Now that they’ve gotten that experience, they’re starting to believe in themselves.”
Q. 2. Is there a specific moment you can look to as the turning point in this season?
A. “When Jared Hobby threw a game-winning TD pass against Blue Valley West (to win 27-20 on Sept. 28), that’s when we knew we were a contender and people were going to have to respect us. That’s what started this winning streak.”
Q. 3. Could you tackle your talented running back, Traevohn Wrench?
A. “We usually try not to hit our star running back in practice, but we’ve had some scrimmages, and he’s a little hard to tackle. But I think I could take him. He might have a different opinion.”
Q. 4. Why should we believe Gardner Edgerton is a state-title contender?
A. “Well, like you said, we’re on a winning streak. And that’s not just because of a bad schedule — we beat some good teams. We believe in the locker room that we can take it to the house and win a state championship. That’s the biggest thing — we have confidence.”
By the Numbers
5 Shutouts this season posted by Hogan Prep Academy, 9-0 overall. The Rams defense has allowed only 52 points all season, which is 5.8 points per game. Couple that with an offense scoring more than 41 points per contest, and the Rams could make for a dangerous team heading into the Class 3 postseason.
42 The number of seconds remaining when Spring Hill scored a game-winning 12-yard touchdown on a pass from Trevor Cluck to Lake Johnson last week against De Soto. With the victory, the Broncos clinched their first playoff berth since 2005 and guaranteed themselves the Kansas 4A, District 3 title.
146 Points scored in last week’s matchup between Blue Springs and Lee’s Summit. Blue Springs won the game, 84-62, to improve to 8-1. Blue Springs running back Dalvin Warmack rushed for 423 yards and seven touchdowns in the game. Lee’s Summit, on the other hand, relied mostly on its passing game in racking up the points. Quarterback Drew Lock threw for six touchdowns.
1993 The last time Lawrence won the Sunflower League football championship. Led by senior two-way star Brad Strauss, the Chesty Lions, 7-1, will try to end that 19-year drought by beating rival Lawrence Free State, 7-1, and its two-way star Kyle McFarland, at 7 p.m. on Friday at Lawrence High School.
Games to Watch
• Olathe North at Olathe South: Gardner Edgerton has locked up the district title, but the winner between rivals Olathe North and Olathe South also makes the playoffs. The Olathe North Eagles, 2-6, haven’t had a very Eagles-like season in Gene Wier’s return after a nine-year stint in Texas, but eliminating the reigning Kansas 6A champion Falcons, 5-3, and reaching the postseason would make up for a lot of those early-season struggles.
• Blue Springs South at Liberty: After an up-and-down season, Liberty’s defense played arguably its best game of the fall last week in beating Blue Springs South in the regular season finale. The Blue Jays, 5-4, are charged with the task of a repeat performance. Blue Springs South, 5-4, is undefeated this season the week after a loss. The Jaguars will need more from an inconsistent offense to serve Liberty payback.
• St. Thomas Aquinas at Bishop Miege: Parochial powers and East Kansas League rivals clash with the Kansas 5A, District 3 championship on the line. The visiting Saints, 7-1, can clinch an outright league title with a win, while the host Stags, 4-4, hope to keep some momentum building into the playoffs. Fellow EKL rivals Blue Valley, 5-3, and BV West, 6-2, meet at the BV District Activity Complex in another de facto district title game.
Tod Palmer (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Sam McDowell (email@example.com of The Star contributed to this report.
| Sam McDowell, firstname.lastname@example.org