Not even early showers could dampen the excitement of thousands of fans who showed up to help ring in the new Kansas high school football season on Friday night as a rare doubleheader took place at the recently renovated College Boulevard Activity Complex in Olathe.
Olathe Northwest started the evening with a 12-10 loss toHays. Olathe East followed that up with a 26-14 win over Garden City.
If the Olathe schools two opponents do not sound familiar, there is a pretty good reason.
Olathe North High School athletic director Jason Herman, who doubles as the Sunflower League’s “Football Czar,” — at the suggestion of coaches — has been working for the past couple of seasons to free up one week for open scheduling against non-league and non-district opponents. When Herman and Olathe Northwest athletic director Jay Novacek presented the proposal to the rest of the league, it passed easily.
“Over the past couple years we have had some high quality athletes and high quality teams, and we wanted to go out and challenge other teams in the Midwest,” Herman said.
As a result, Olathe East faced Garden City for the first time in school history. It was also the Buffaloes’ first trip to Kansas City since 1999, due in large part to the six-hour drive. Garden City had lost to Olathe North in 1998 and defeated Olathe South in 1999 in Kansas Class 6A state tournaments.
Leavenworth, Olathe South and Olathe North also joined the movement against out-of-town foes, facing Great Bend, Hutchinson and Rogers Heritage in Arkansas, respectively. The Sunflower League went 4-1 in the five games.
In Olathe Nortwest’s game, the Ravens took a 7-6 lead by the end of the first quarter with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Jack Hatzfeld to Evan Harter. The Ravens extended their lead with a 24-yard field goal from Devin Anctil in the third quarter, before giving up a 96-yard touchdown drive that Kansas State commit Alex Delton capped with a 1-yard quarterback keeper.
“We did not play well,” Olathe Northwest second-year coach Chip Sherman said. “We didn’t do much of anything well.”
The Ravens had four fumbles and lost both.
Olathe East in its game capitalized on a pair of Garden City fumbles and a got a gleaming first varsity start from senior quarterback Chase Miller.
“He was poised, he did everything I asked him to do and he threw the ball well,” Olathe East coach Jeff Meyers said of Miller. “I felt like he was going to be that type of player for us and he proved me right.”
Miller connected with Zac Cahill for a 71-yard touchdown after the first of Garden City’s fumbles, scored on a 1-yard run after the second and hit Harrison Branson for a 28-yard TD pass in the first half, alone, to lead the Hawks into the break with a 23-7 lead.
Although Olathe East cooled off in the second half, Chris Diddle nailed a 49-yard field goal, and the defense held the Buffaloes to just one score.
“They played extremely well, and we can still get a lot better,” Meyers said.