Relying on a strong running game and an outstanding defense, Olathe East beat Shawnee Mission East 17-7 Friday at the College Boulevard Activity Center to advance in Kansas Class 6A state playoffs.
By CHARLES REDFIELD
Special to The Star
It was a turnaround from the first time the teams met this season, a 41-21 Lancers win. The Hawks leading rusher, senior Hayden Frazier, and the team’s second-leading ground gainer, senior Ryan Woodson, didn’t play in that game.
On Friday, Frazier was back in a big way, picking up 156 yards on 37 carries.
Olathe East used a couple of first-half touchdowns — taking advantage of short SM East punts — to put the Lancers into a hole that they could not escape.
In the first quarter, the Hawks took possession at the Lancers’ 42 and moved into the end zone in just five plays. Senior quarterback John Blazevic sneaked over from the 1 with 3:14 left in the period. Senior Ryan Ahlgren added the extra point kick.
Early in the second quarter, the Hawks began a drive at the Lancers’ 45. It took eight plays for Frazier to bull his way into the end zone from the 3.
“We established our running game early and got the lead,” Olathe East coach Jeff Meyers said. “We had almost all our players tonight.”
The Lancers had the first possession of the second half, but senior quarterback Jordan Darling fumbled on a running play and junior Brandon Trinkle made the recovery at the SM East 30.
The Hawks made it to the 10, but the drive stalled there. Ahlgren booted a 27-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead.
The Lancers came back with their only scoring drive of the game. They had a seven play, 70-yard drive with Darling sneaking into the end zone from the 1 with 5:19 left in the third quarter.
Olathe East’s defense then snuffed out SM East’s hope for a comeback.
First, Trinkle intercepted a Darling pass at the 1 early in the fourth quarter.
Then, after Darling completed a pass to junior wide receiver Christian Blessen for 22 yards, he fumbled when hit and sophomore defensive back Jalen Branson made the recovery at the Hawks’ 21 with 3:13 left in the game.
“Our defense, especially our pass defense has really improved,” Meyers said. “We struggled early in the year with our pass defense, but we made changes. Our defensive backs have really improved and that has been huge. They were outstanding tonight with fumble recoveries and interceptions.”
Darling completed 13 of 22 passes for 148 yards, but he was sacked five times and had a pass intercepted.
The Hawks will play Lawrence Free State next Friday in the next round of the playoffs. The site will be determined by the Kansas State High School Activities Association. The two teams didn’t meet during the regular season.