When Dustin Delaney accepted the head coaching job at Shawnee Mission East in May he had a simple message. He told his Lancers he wanted to go to the state championship.
At first, that seemed like a distant goal. The Lancers had never even been to state title game but slowly, they started to gain momentum.
“We were a little shocked at first by his confidence, but we all bought in just like he told us to, and good things happened,” senior fullback Luke Taylor said.
After finishing the regular season 8-1, the Lancers entered the Kansas class 6A state tournament as the No. 2 seed out of the East and won three games to advance to Saturday’s state title game. Shawnee Mission East will face Derby at 1 p.m. at Washburn University in Topeka.
“I refused to have any goal but going to the state championship, and I told the kids that from day one,” Delaney said. “We talk about it all the time and people thought we were crazy, but that is what we wanted to try and do. That was our goal and our kids bought in hook, line and sinker. All the credit goes to the kids. They didn’t have to buy into what I was selling, but they did.”
Delaney played football for Emporia State and started his Kansas high school coaching career with a two-year stint at Clearwater. From there, he went to Hutchinson, where the Salthawks won four consecutive state championships with him serving as the offensive coordinator. Then, he went to Emporia, where his teams went 23-10 and won a regional title in his three seasons at the helm.
His time with Hutchinson will come in handy this weekend when he faces Derby, a familiar foe. Delaney brought a Hutchinson-style flexbone offense to Shawnee Mission East that has resulted in great success, but Derby shut out Hutchinson 36-0 this season. On top of that, Derby is averaging 49 points per game this season with scored ranging from 28 to 76.
“Derby is unbelievable,” Delaney said. “They’ve got a lot of talent, and they’ve got great coaches. It’s going to be a big-time game.”
Shawnee Mission East’s offense hasn’t been too shabby either, averaging just more than 29 points per game, and that’s been done without a single player leading the Sunflower League in any offensive category. Taylor and Sam Huffman are leading the team in rushing, Ryan Carter is leading the receivers and back-up quarterback Gunnar Englund has guided them through the playoffs. On defense, the Lancers have held all opponents to 27 points or fewer.
“We’ve had new kids step up every single night,” Delaney said. “We are the ultimate concept of team. All our kids will do anything for each other, and the reward is we get to go to state.”