LHS shocks De Soto
Moments after Lansing High's football team knocked off De Soto on Tuesday night for its first bidistrict playoff game since 1983, LHS coach Bill Pekarek sat in the locker room pondering the dominating performance he'd just witnessed his Lions deliver.
Pekarek thought back to three weeks earlier when Lansing toppled Basehor-Linwood, 37-34, in triple-overtime and remembered how hard his players fought that night to earn him his 100th career victory.
Three weeks ago, the Lions won one for Pekarek. Tuesday night with their 10-7 victory, he said, his players won for themselves.
"I said, 'You guys were real determined that you were going to win that game," Pekarek said of the win against Basehor. "I said, 'Now, you go win this game for yourselves. You go out there and bust your tails and win this one for yourselves.
"We were talking about going to the playoffs on the first week, the first day (of practice), so here we are. Let's go out and get it for yourselves."
That's exactly what the Lions did. They'd heard all about De Soto's high-powered offense, about its fantastic quarterback Neil Erisman and big-play receiver Danny Doherty. They'd heard the Wildcats had a pair of running backs in Tyler Farmer and Leif Goleman who were tough to contain.
They'd heard all the stories and seen the game film, but the underlying fact was words and tape don't win football games - players do. And when it came to making plays Tuesday night, the biggest playmakers wore red and black.
Senior John Tytla's first-quarter field goal was the only scoring either team mustered in the first half, but junior quarterback Matt Warner's 51-yard touchdown strike to junior tailback Jeff Slater in the early minutes of the third quarter proved to be the dagger. Lansing's defense smothered Farmer and Goleman all night and kept Erisman in check to the point he was a virtual nonfactor.
De Soto's lone score came on a punt return with 1:29 left in the game that proved to be inconsequential against Lansing's dominating effort.
"Defensively, we just play smash-mouth football," Tytla said. "If we win the hitting game, we feel like we're going to win the game no matter how good of a player you are."
The Lansing defense limited De Soto to just 58 yards of total offense in the first half and forced it to punt on four of its five first-half possessions. Meanwhile, the Lions gained 115 yards by halftime but only had three points to show for it.
Slater's 42-yard run on Lansing's second possession of the night set up Tytla's 22-yard field goal. De Soto's only scoring threat of the half - a 40-yard pass from Erisman to Brandon Hurt - was called back for offensive pass interference.
The Lions (8-2) knew they would need to muster a few more points in the second half to keep De Soto (7-3) at bay, and they took care of that quickly. On just the third play of the third quarter, Warner went deep over the middle and hit a wide-open Slater on a fly pattern for a touchdown. It was a daring call against the Wildcats' speedy secondary, but the gamble paid off.
"At halftime our coach came up to Warner and I and said, 'Go deep and see if you can beat the safety and let Warner hold it for just a split second.' Warner threw it right into my hands. You couldn't ask for a better ball. That was the difference-maker."
De Soto never recovered. It went three-and-out on its next two possessions. Then Tytla recovered a fumble and Lansing began running down the clock by sticking to its efficient running game.
As the final minutes ticked down, the Wildcats scored their only points of the day when Slater botched a punt that went for minus-five yards. Doherty picked it up and trotted into the end zone. Ryan Robbins recovered the onside kick, however, and LHS ran out the clock on its eighth consecutive victory.
"We're riding an all-time high here," Tytla said. "We're the first Lansing team to get eight wins since '83. Our defense has stepped up all year and our offense is getting the job done. This is making a big stand for football to come here at Lansing. We're making it a tradition of getting into the playoffs."
Lansing piled up 243 yards of total offense to just 132 by De Soto. Slater rushed 19 times for 110 yards while Warner completed 4 of 15 passes for 95 yards in the victory.
The Lions' next stop in postseason play is at Holton (10-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday. Holton, the defending Class 4A state champion and No. 1-ranked team in the state, pounded Wamego, 41-12, Tuesday night.
Pekarek said Holton would be as difficult a foe as his team has seen all season, but said his squad is excited for the challenge.
"Every time they try to act like, 'Ooh, Holton.' But I say, 'Hey, somebody's gotta beat 'em,'" Pekarek said. "Yeah, they were the state champions last year and they've played well, but that's why you suit up and play. Hey, you never know what can happen unless you go out there and play hard."