Shawnee Mission East senior running back Sam Huffman wasn’t sure how he got that noticeable tear on the back of his No. 24 jersey. But this much is certain: Huffman found a way to rip out Olathe North’s heart.
With the game on the line Friday and two undefeated teams battling for a spot in the state championship game, Huffman took a pitch and raced into the end zone on a two-point conversion, an effort that set off a rowdy celebration. SM East’s 36-35 victory in double overtime over Olathe North in a Kansas 6A state semifinal game at SM North District Stadium sent the Lancers to the final next Saturday in Emporia.
Adding to the drama, both of the Lancers’ overtime touchdowns by Wyatt Edmisten came on fourth-down plays.
As SM East students flooded the field to hug, high-five and congratulate their team, Huffman outlined what went down in such thrilling fashion.
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“Coach (Dustin Delaney) called Rocket Toss. I saw a lane and took off,” said Huffman, who beat Olathe North defenders to the right edge. “I’m so proud of this team right now. I can’t believe it.”
Delaney thought it was worth the risk to skip kicking the extra-point attempt and go for the gold.
“Somebody’s got to win the game. It might as well be us,” said Delaney, whose team finished runner-up at state a year ago in pursuit of the Lancers’ first gridiron title.
Olathe North coach Gene Wier, meanwhile, was left to pick up the pieces. His players filed somberly into their dressing room. Tears were flowing. Losing this way, plain and simple, hurts for a team that was seeking a shot at the ninth state title in school history. Wier thought for sure the outcome was going to be quite different.
“We had that kid (Huffman) pinned. I thought it was over,” Wier said.
SM East, 12-0 and No. 1 in The Star’s Big Class poll, scored in the first series of the game and held that 7-0 edge into the third quarter. That’s when No. 3-ranked Olathe North, 11-1, got busy. The Eagles tied it on a Chaz Burgess 81-yard interception return. Later in the quarter, Isaiah Simmons’ blocked punt led to a 5-yard scoring run by Venus Triplett to put Olathe North ahead 14-7.
The Lancers pulled within a point on Huffman’s 48-yard scoring run with 10 minutes, 27 seconds left in regulation but missed the extra point. SM East overcame it and moved in front on Edmisten’s 5-yard touchdown run and his two-point conversion run, pushing the Lancers to a 21-14 lead with 4:52 remaining.
Olathe North responded. The Eagles converted two fourth downs, the last one when Burgess scored on a 6-yard pass from Cole Murphy with 47 seconds to go, which set the stage for dramatic overtimes.
In the first overtime, SM East went up on Edmisten’s 1-yard run. Olathe North answered on Murphy’s 6-yard score. In the decisive second overtime, the Eagles took the lead on Triplett’s 3-yard run. Edmisten came through again from 1 yard out, in a prelude to what turned out to be a grand finale for the Lancers.
“We got behind but we stood together and gave it all our hearts,” SM East defensive end Kyle Ball said. “This was the perfect ending.”