Shawnee Mission East senior Tyler Stottle is listed on the roster as a combination linebacker/wide receiver.
These hybrid designations are common on high school rosters. But in Stottle’s case, it happens to be keenly accurate.
Stottle delivered the knockout blow midway through the third quarter in SM East’s 37-7 victory over Shawnee Mission Northwest on Friday night at Shawnee Mission District Stadium.
SM Northwest (3-1) was trying to pick up much needed yardage. The Lancers were all over it, as they were just about everything else SM Northwest did.
Here’s where Stottle’s roster listing comes in. He showed the instincts of a linebacker in diagnosing the play. The soft hands and open-field grace of a receiver came into play when Stottle picked off the tipped pass and returned it 50 yards for a score to put the Lancers (3-1) up by 23.
“I had three interceptions last year, and I had a pick I took back to the house week two against Lawrence, so I tend to find the ball wherever I’m at on the field,” Stottle said. “I saw the linemen go up to get to the next level, and I immediately crashed down. It got tipped and I just made a play on the ball.”
Lancers coach Justin Hoover wasn’t surprised — at all — that Stottle got his hands on the ball, because that’s where his senior linebacker always tends to find himself.
“The thing about him is he’s got great athleticism, but his instincts are out of this world. Finding a way to find the football, it just seems to always be around him, and that doesn’t happen by accident,” Hoover said. “A guy that can play with those kinds on instincts consistently, he’s always around the ball. A lot of what we try to do is let him roam.”
Hoover said the second-quarter touchdown his team allowed was its first in 11 quarters of play.
SM East got the season off to a rough start, losing the opener to Gardner Edgerton. Since then, the Lancers have clawed their way back to the top tier of the Sunflower League.
“We’ve got an opportunity each week, and I think the finished product will be pretty good. We took care of business,” Stottle said. “Everyone did their job. Overall we made plays and we’ve got bigger and better things to come.”
SM East got three rushing touchdowns from Rashaun Burney, and Tony Friends added more than 100 rushing yards and another score.
The Cougars, meanwhile, couldn’t find any consistency offensively. The Cougars’ lone score was set up on a short field.
The Lancers had a lot to do with the Cougars’ woes. The SM East defense wasn’t pleased with its season debut, and has spent the past three weeks making up for lost time.
“I think they took that very personal. It was a couple third downs and couple plays that extended critical drives. It was literally cleaning up a couple things,” Hoover said. “Once we understood the situation, now I see us making plays in front of the sticks instead of behind the sticks.”
The season is just getting started, and Hoover hopes his team is just now getting going.
“We don’t want to slip. What we’re trying to do is just keep climbing,” Hoover said.