The Olathe East secondary turned in the type of game Thursday evening at the College Boulevard Activity Center that defied imagination. The Hawks picked off six passes that played a key role in their 25-14 victory over Shawnee Mission Northwest.
“The secondary,” said Olathe East senior running back Alex Conley, “that was their game. They helped us win.”
Senior cornerback Dion Union had three interceptions, senior strong safety Kameron Barnes picked off two passes and senior inside linebacker Nick Zinn hauled in one.
“Whenever you get six, it is big,” Barnes said. “Dion is a great athlete. He is great at basketball, great at football. I am proud of him.”
It was Barnes’ second interception late in the third quarter that set up Olathe East’s go-ahead touchdown. Olathe East only needed to go 9 yards for a touchdown.
“I was just trying to get into the end zone there or get close enough for our offense to punch it in,” Barnes said.
It only took the Hawks two plays to score. And they got in the end zone on an 8-yard run by senior Zac Cahill, putting Olathe East ahead 18-14 with 16.2 seconds left in the third quarter.
Olathe East, which also recovered a fumble, won for the third straight week and improved to 3-2.
Offensively, Conley put on his hard hat and pounded out 165 yards in 33 carries and scored three touchdowns. His third touchdown gave the Hawks a 25-14 lead with 2:06 left i the game.
“I am proud of our line,” Conley said. “They did all the work. I just got lucky and scored.”
The seven turnovers by SM Northwest ruined a solid first half. The interception by Zinn in the opening series of the third quarter got the Hawks on track. Olathe East got the ball at the SM Northwest 10-yard line. Conley scored a touchdown on the next play, pulling Olathe East to within two at 14-12.
The Cougars were not able to duplicate their first-half performance.
A trick play in the first quarter helped produce the first points of the game for SM Northwest and a long touchdown run in the second quarter sent the Cougars into halftime with a 14-6 lead.
“We kept fighting, but things weren’t going as planned,” Conley said. “We came back and fought through it.”
Early on, it appeared it was going to be a battle of field position. Olathe East punted in the opening series of the game.
SM Northwest was ready to return the favor, but on a fourth and nine from its 44, junior punter Preston Killingsworth took off for a 17-yard gain. Five plays later, SM Northwest scored on a 10-yard reception by senior wide receiver Gerrit Prince. Killingsworth’s extra point gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead with 7:21 left in the first quarter.
Olathe East responded with a time-consuming, 15-play drive that ended with an 18-yard touchdown run by Conley with 22 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Olathe East missed the extra point and then compounded that miscue by sailing the kickoff out of bounds.
The Cougars started at their 35 and needed seven plays to get back to the end zone, this time on a 23-yard touchdown run by junior Xaiver Perry with 9:28 left in the second quarter.
Shawnee Mission Northwest moved into Olathe East territory two more times in the game, but each drive was halted by an interception.