Greediness has always been a part of Halloween.
By TODD ENGLE
Special to The Star
And with its football season on the line on a dank, misty Halloween night, Olathe East wasn’t afraid to get greedy with the football.
The Hawks forced five turnovers, converted three of them into points and walked away with a 31-21 victory over Shawnee Mission South at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium.
Olathe East (6-3, 5-2 Sunflower League) proved to be capitalistic early on. Jalen Branson turned a South fumble into a touchdown with a 29-yard run midway through the first quarter.
The Hawks’ defense got in on the act on the next play. Shawnee Mission South’s Ra’Keim Abdul and Marshall Bland came together on a read option, but the ball was muffed during the exchange.
Olathe East’s Connor Alexander got between the two, wrestled the ball free and rumbled 28 yards for the score.
“I’ve seen pitches get taken away. It just seemed like the handoff was mishandled and Connor was able to return it. It was huge for us. That was a big momentum change,” Olathe East quarterback Connor Leach said.
The Hawks were in control until late in the third quarter, when a lost fumble and muffed punt gave Shawnee Mission South the opening it needed.
KJ Edwards hit Nick Oliver on a 39 yard reverse pass on the final play of the third quarter, and the two-point conversion pulled the Raiders within three points.
South got as close as the Olathe East 21-yard line in the fourth quarter, but a false-start penalty after calling its final timeout pushed the ball back.
The Raiders (4-5, 3-4) tried a 42-yard field goal to tie after an incompletion, but it came up just inches short.
“I think that field goal was about a foot short,” Shawnee Mission South coach Ryan Lonergan said. “But there was still three minutes to play football. They made some plays and did some things. We probably, outside of five or six plays, played out best game of the year. I’m proud of them. They played hard. That’s what we asked them to do.”
The Raiders simply couldn’t overcome their early miscues.
Olathe East will make its 13th consecutive playoff appearance next week. Branson finished with 99 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Jordan Brown sealed the win with a 70-yard touchdown jaunt.
“We knew they were going to be on fire, because they haven’t beaten us before in our school history and they had a chance to beat us and go to the postseason, which they haven’t done in a while,” Leach said. “So it was big to get this win.”
All that’s left to do now is to sit back and see where the team’s playoff road begins.
“It gives us momentum going into the playoffs, and when you get to the playoffs, anything can happen,” Branson said.