The Olathe North Eagles took their time taking the field before its Kansas Class 6A regional on Friday night.
By ZACHARY SPAIN
Special to The Star
When the Eagles finally did — more than two minutes after host Blue Valley Northwest broke through a banner under the goal posts and rushed to its sideline — the Eagles walked methodically, strutting confidently even, as they crossed the field.
Things were different, though after the final seconds ticked away on their 14-3 win Friday: The fifth-seeded Eagles rushed onto the field.
They had a berth into the eight-team sectional to celebrate. And they did it with a swagger.
“I think we’re back to the old North,” senior defensive back Jamil Brown said. “That tough, physical North is back. It feels great.”
A season after losing in the regional round, Olathe North used two first-half touchdowns to take control, then relied on Brown and the rest of the defense to force five BV Northwest turnovers and hold the Huskies, 7-3, to just a field goal in two trips inside the 10-yard line.
With the Huskies threatening for the first time since the first half, Brown recovered a fumbled snap by Jake Rominger at the Olathe North 7. Brown ended BV Northwest’s last-minute drive with an interception deep in Eagles’ territory.
BV Northwest’s inability to make the big play when needed doomed the Huskies, coach Mike Zegunis said.
“That’s something that we’ve done well all year, being able to close,” said Zegunis, whose lone score came from Bryan Gish’s 31-yard field goal in the second quarter after advancing to the Olathe North 7-yard-line. “But you have to credit their defense. They made life difficult for us.”
Olathe North, 7-3, didn’t have it easy on offense either, but the two first-half touchdowns, on drives of 85 and 84 yards, proved to be enough.
“(Our defense) played well enough for us to win a game,” Zegunis said.
Running back Venus Triplett, who ran for 139 yards in 24 carries, finished the Eagles’ second drive of the game with a 22-yard scoring run to the outside.
After relying on the legs of Triplett and quarterback Cole Murphy early, the Eagles found the end zone again on their next drive as Murphy, who attempted just two passes in the first 15 minutes, completed three passes to tight end Josh Moore.
Moore accounted for 89 yards on the drive, including his elusive 41-yard touchdown catch-and-run with 5:58 left in the half.
After that, the strutting was left to the Olathe North defense.
“Our defense is very good,” Eagles coach Gene Wier said. “We play around them. It’s that simple.”