Conventional football wisdom has it that when’s the weather’s cold, the passing game often goes cold, too.
Well, Lee’s Summit West flew in the freezing face of convention Friday night.
Despite game-time temperatures in the 20s with a wind chill in the teens, the Titans took to the air early and never cooled off in beating Kearney 42-14 in a Missouri Class 5 semifinal at Lee’s Summit West.
Lee’s Summit West, 12-1, advances to next weekend’s championship game at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, their third trip to state in the program’s 10-year existence. And the Titans made it with the balanced attack that has carried them all season, even on a night not meant for passing.
“We were told we were going to throw the ball first,” LS West quarterback Thomas Ganaden said. “Lately we’ve had a lot of wind, and we were just excited that the wind had died down a little bit.”
And once the Titans had the passing game going, their running game took off as well. It’s a one-two punch few teams can match, and Kearney couldn’t. All the while, the Titans’ defense kept the Bulldogs’ strong running game in check.
Ganaden defied the chill to complete 14 of 18 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to star receiver Monte Harrison, who had 198 yards on seven mostly acrobatic catches.
And wide receiver Brenner Clemons, taking snaps in the Titans’ wildcat formation, accounted for three touchdowns, two of them rushing. All told, LS West rolled up 366 well-balanced yards of offense.
“The passing game got the running game going,” Lee’s Summit West coach Royce Boehm said. “Once we get those guys out of the box, that opens up our running game.”
Ganaden opened the scoring with a 65-yard down-the-middle strike to Harrison, who outran the Bulldogs into the end zone for a 7-0 lead. Ganaden’s pass came two plays after the Titans had recovered a Kearney fumble.
Clemons made it 14-0 with a 3-yard run early in the second quarter, one play after Harrison made an acrobatic catch on the Bulldogs’ 3. Ganaden then found Clemons for a 35-yard strike that made it 21-0 with 3 minutes left in the half. That throw came on a fourth-and-two play, one of several big third- and fourth-down pass plays the Titans converted.
“We’ve been doing that all season,” Ganaden said. “Whenever we need a big third-down play we have the receivers that can make the plays.”
Kearney, meanwhile, struggled to get its potent ground game going. Brock Broughton, the Bulldogs’ powerful running back, was held to 97 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown late in the game. The Titans’ defense constantly stuffed him at the line especially in the first half, when he managed only 27 yards on 15 carries.
“He’s a very good running back, and our kids stepped up to the challenge of stopping him,” Boehm said. “And they had a passing game, too. I have to give a shoutout to our coaches for having these kids ready to go.”
Which means Lee’s Summit West is ready to go back to St. Louis, one season after a disappointing loss in the quarterfinals. The Titans’ last trip to the Dome was in 2010, and they came home with the title.
“These kids have been awesome,” Boehm said. “These chances don’t come around often, so you’ve got to enjoy them.