Whenever Lee’s Summit needed yardage Friday at home against Olathe South, Preston Whitworth was happy to oblige.
Whitworth has been the Tigers’ go-to running back all season, but Friday he added a new wrinkle — taking snaps at quarterback in the Wildcat formation.
It caught the Falcons off guard to the tune of 207 rushing yards on 29 carries with a touchdown plus another touchdown passing during a 28-15 victory in the second Sunflower-Suburban Showdown.
“That kid, man, he plays his butt off,” Lee’s Summit coach Eric Thomas said. “He’s hard to tackle, he’s hard to bring down, he knows our entire offense, and he could play any position he wanted to in our offense.”
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Thomas said he had been “sprinkling in” Whitworth at Wildcat QB during the last three or four weeks, but it became a bigger part of the Tigers’ game plan after starting quarterback Darrias Pearsall became ill and missed two practices last week.
Pearsall played most to the game and also had a touchdown pass despite still being a little under the weather, according to Thomas.
“When we line up in the Wildcat, it’s just something different and catches the defenses off guard,” Whitworth said. “It’s really nothing different than running the ball like we normally do.”
Whitworth’s outing complemented a solid performance by Lee’s Summit’s defense, which forced three turnovers — one a pivotal pick six — and stopped Olathe South twice deep in the red zone.
Falcons quarterback Nick Jouret rushed for two touchdowns in the first half, but the offense floundered when he suffered a leg injury before halftime and came out of the game in the third quarter.
“When our quarterback cramped up and went down, it pretty much changed our game plan,” Olathe South coach Craig Lewis said.
Whitworth opened the scoring for Lee’s Summit (2-3) with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell Tinsley in the first quarter and capped it with a 15-yard touchdown run in the third. He had three other carries of more than 10 yards and nine that picked up first downs as Lee’s Summit .
But it was Olathe South (1-2) that drew first blood when Jouret scored on a 3-yard run in capping a nine-play, 52-yard drive — all running plays.
A missed extra point left the Falcons with a 6-0 lead, and Lee’s Summit responded with a 15-play, 80-drive that culminated with Whitworth’s TD toss.
The Falcons countered with a 14-play march that ended when Jouret was stuffed a half -yard short of the end zone on fourth down.
The Tigers got stuffed on the ensuing drive for safety before the lead changed hands two more times.
Lee’s Summit moved back in front when Michael Garozzo intercepted a tipped pass from Jouret.
Three plays later, Pearsall connected with tight end Spencer Parker for a 48-yard touchdown and a 14-8 lead.
Olathe South’s Jamison Phelps returned the ensuing kickoff to Lee’s Summit 29-yard line, which led to a 1-yard QB sneak by Jouret for a 15-14 lead after the extra point.
The second half, however, belonged to Lee’s Summit.
“I thought offensively and defensively we started playing more physical in the second half and really got after them,” Thomas said. “We were still finding our feet at first.”
The Tigers stuffed the Falcons on fourth down inside the Lee’s Summit 10-yard line early in the third quarter.
Alec Casady picked off Jouret on Olathe South’s next possession, returning it for the go-ahead touchdown before Whitworth’s touchdown scamper iced the win.
“We went into halftime knowing we were better than them,” Whitworth said. “Our line stepped up and started making blocks and that’s just where it all starts.”