Down seven points with 14 seconds left in the game, Shawnee Mission East had one more chance to win its first state title. Instead, the drive ended after just two plays with an interception.
It was Shawnee Mission East’s fourth turnover of the day as the Lancers lost 28-21 to Derby in the Kansas Class 6A state championship game on Saturday at Washburn University.
“When you play someone as good as Derby, and they’re really good, they’re as good of a defense as I’ve seen, you’ve got razor thin margins of error and we made too many,” Shawnee Mission East coach Dustin Delaney said.
The Lancers fumbled five times in the game and lost three before the interception. They had another chance with the ball at their own 23 with 1:17 left, but that possession ended with a fumble.
The loss ended Shawnee Mission East’s improbable run to its first state championship game. The Lancers finished the season with a program-best 11-2 record.
“Nobody thought we’d have a chance against Derby when we went toe-to-toe with them,” Delaney said. “We kept responding like we did all year and our kids are never out of it. I couldn’t be more proud of them win or lose. The team that we are, I love.”
After stopping Derby on the opening drive, Shawnee Mission East got the ball at its own 35. The Lancers made it to the 46 before a fumble by Luke Taylor. David Tullis recovered for Derby at midfield, but again the Lancers defense came up with a big stop.
Shawnee Mission East got the ball back and went 12 plays to Derby’s 28 before the Panthers’ Chase Bransetter scooped up a fumble by Gunnar Englund. SM East stopped Derby again, holding the Panthers without a first down for the first quarter.
Derby scored quickly in the second quarter on a 5-yard run by Jeremy Dunham after a 31-yard punt return by Florida commit DeAndre Goolsby to the SM East 20.
The Panthers took a 14-0 lead after forcing Shawnee Mission East’s first three-and-out and Tyler West scored on a 9-yard run.
Just when it looked like the Lancers were losing their edge, Englund connected with junior wide receiver Alec Dean for a 62-yard touchdown pass on the next possession, cutting Derby’s lead to 14-7 before halftime. The two connected again after the break on a 37-yard touchdown pass, tying the score.
Derby regained the lead with a 41-yard touchdown pass from Jeremy Dunham to Tim Williamson, but SM East answered with a 17-yard touchdown run by Ryan Carter.
The winning drive took just one play, a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jeremy Dunham to Caleb Arnold, and 10 seconds for Derby.
“Our kids haven’t been in many close games, but Shawnee Mission East has been in a lot of tight games. If you were going to pick if it was going to be a tight game, it would probably be Shawnee Mission East,” Derby coach Brandon Clark said. “Our kids fought really well and made some big plays at the end. I couldn’t be prouder.”