Football, for all of its intricate play design, can be a fairly simple game.
To wit: identify your best player, and get him the ball as many ways as possible.
Shawnee Mission West senior Andre Maloney was a receiver Friday. He ran it out of the Vikings’ version of the wildcat formation. He returned a punt with scintillating results.
Maloney’s versatility and a stingy, ball-hawking defense paved the way for Shawnee Mission West’s 23-8 victory over Olathe South at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium.
Maloney’s first big play of the night was a 72-yard touchdown pass from quarterback A.J. Verdini, the highlight of a four catch, 121-yard receiving game.
That play had been open earlier in the game, but the pass sailed long.
“I threw it over his head. That’s my fault. He says he lost his footing, but I don’t believe that at all,” Verdini said with a grin. “That kid’s probably the fastest in the Sunflower League. I knew we’d be coming back to it.”
So did Maloney.
The second attempt was similar to a well-struck golf shot. Verdini knew it was good as soon as he let it fly.
“I threw that and it was like, ‘I’m gone. We’re gonna score. It’s a touchdown,’” Verdini said.
Maloney, who has committed to Kansas, rushed for 41 yards on 10 carries. The highlight of the evening, though, was a 55-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. He picked up a bouncing football and found the end zone after a temporary delay.
“I just wanted to get some yards. When the guy wrapped me up, I was just waiting for that big hit, and I was like, oh, man, no one hit me,’” Maloney said. “I broke the tackle — and touchdown.”
Justin Hobbs’ 54-yard touchdown pass was sandwiched between Maloney’s pair of big scoring plays.
“We have a lot of weapons in our offense, and people saw that tonight… This year we have Andre scoring touchdowns and Justin Hobbs scoring touchdowns,” Verdini said. “We have a defense that can force turnovers. We missed a couple picks, but we’ll fix that. That’s what you need.”
Shawnee Mission West, 2-0, was poised to post its first shutout of the season until Olathe South’s Tom McCue rumbled in from 19 yards out with 1:07 left in the game.
The Falcons, 1-1, could have dented the scoreboard first, but were stuffed after four tries from the 5-yard line in the first quarter. Three lost fumbles and an interception derailed most of their scoring opportunities with the game in reach.
The Vikings didn’t get their shutout, but they head into next week’s game against Lawrence having allowed a measly 11 points in eight quarters.
The secret to good defense can sometimes be as simple as the secret to good offense.
“I think they’re just playing tough, hard-nosed football,” Shawnee Mission West coach Tim Callaghan said. “They’re getting to the ball, and there’s not a lot of solo tackles. There’s a lot of gang tackling.”
Simple. And effective.