For most of the Kansas 6A championship game, Shawnee Mission East pounded the ball up the middle or flicked the ball out for a sweeping run to the left.
The methodical running game allowed the Lancers to build a nice cushion against Hutchinson on Saturday afternoon at Welch Stadium.
With 5:37 left in the game, SM East was in position to clear space in its trophy case. The clincher came on a beautiful 22-yard pass from senior Gunner Englund to senior wide receiver Charley White.
The touchdown gave the Lancers a 19-point lead, which turned into an impressive 33-14 victory.
“I sensed it then,” Englund said. “I threw it up to him and he ran it down. It was a great play by him.
“I am so happy right now I don’t know what to say. I am in shock.”
SM East went a step further than last year, winning the state title in perfect form, finishing the season 13-0. It is the first state football title in school history.
“We had kids making plays when we needed them,” SM East coach Dustin Delaney said. “It is somebody different every week. We are the definition of team. Our kids don’t care who gets the credit. They are all about winning. They won 13 of them this year and a state championship.
“The last two years has been fun. We can do more at SM East than play country club sports. We can play some football, too.”
It was a dominating performance by SM East in the second half.
The Lancers went into halftime with a five-point lead. They scored one touchdown in the third quarter, another in the fourth quarter and held Hutchinson scoreless in the second half.
While Hutchinson had the more impressive individual runners in senior running back Blaik Middleton and senior quarterback Turner Wintz, SM East used a hard-nosed ground game that wore down the Salthawks. It started up front with the offensive line.
“We are so tight,” SM East senior offensive lineman James Wooldridge said. “We have been playing together for two years. All season we have been bonding, doing everything we can to get to this moment.”
Senior Wyatt Edmisten was the workhorse for the Lancers, carrying the ball 32 times for 142 yards. Nobody else had more than 67 yards for SM East. In contrast, Middleton finished with 163 yards in 28 carries, and Wintz had 161 yards in 13 carries for Hutchinson.
“Today, we had too many times when we shot ourselves in the foot, but a lot of credit goes to SM East,” Wintz said. “They did a great job. They executed really well.”
SM East’s offensive line executed its blocks, creating holes for Edmisten, Sam Huffman and Mike Bamford. Edmisten finished with three touchdowns.
“Delaney just prepares us and prepares us,” Edmisten said. “We get our job done. We run hard. We like the way we do it, just hard-nosed football, playing all the way through the fourth quarter.”
White also had a huge game for the Lancers, catching two touchdown passes and recovering two fumbles, with each one switching momentum to the Lancers.
“It was great getting the momentum right at the beginning,” White said. “It was a great hit by the linebacker to get the ball loose.”
SM East took advantage of the only turnover in the first half, and although the miscue occurred early in the first quarter, it turned out to be the difference at halftime. The Lancers went into intermission ahead 19-14.
On the first drive of the game, Hutchinson moved the ball until a fumble gave the ball to SM East near midfield.
The Lancers went on a methodical 14-play, 52-yard drive, twice converting on fourth and 1. SM East took more than 5 minutes before scoring on a 1-yard run by Edmisten.
“It was a great feeling,” Edmisten said. “Our O-line did great all game. Getting into the end zone the first time set the tone for the game.”
After each team punted, the Salthawks tied the game early in the second quarter on a 39-yard run by Middleton, making it 7-7.
SM East came right back and went on an eight-play, 80-yard drive, scoring on a 2-yard run by Edmisten. The Lancers missed the extra point.
The Salthawks showed some fourth-down magic in their next drive. Instead of attempting a 30-yard field goal, Hutchinson threw a pass on fourth and 5 and succeeded with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Wintz to senior Ryan Toecklein. The extra point by Bryce Culley gave Hutchinson a 14-13 lead.
Fewer than 2 minutes later, SM East went back ahead on a 36-yard touchdown pass from Englund to White.