The ‘real’ KVL champs
Lions upend Kaws to win bragging rights, bidistrict title
Officially, Lansing High, Perry-Lecompton and Tonganoxie tied for the Kaw Valley League football championship this year, but the Lions know who the real champ is.
Lansing beat Tongie in the season-opener but never got to play Perry during the regular season. The Chieftains beat the Kaws in overtime, 24-21, last week to forge a three-way tie for first in the league.
Tuesday night's bidistrict contest between LHS and Perry didn't count in the KVL standings because it was a postseason game, but if you ask the Lions, their 31-28 victory did plenty to clarify who the top team in the league really is.
"It had the underlining of league champions," senior defensive end Steve Lillard said of the victory. "It's just good to stick it to them and say, 'We beat you and Tongie, so no matter what records say, we are the best in the league."
Lansing (9-1) may have proven to be better than both Tonganoxie and Perry, but the Lions also discovered that the margin of difference is very, very small. They beat the Chieftains by just four points, and then had to make a stand on fourth down to squeak past the Kaws by three.
"Perry played well tonight," LHS coach Bill Pekarek said. "It was a hard-fought game by both teams. It was a good high school football game. Our kids have been playing hard. We've had some thrilling moments and it's something that our crowd should be getting excited about."
Excitement filled the stadium all night as the game went back and forth and came down to the wire.
Perry (8-2) struck first on quarterback David Foltz's 15-yard touchdown run with 5:44 left in the first quarter.
Lansing answered with a one-yard touchdown run from senior Jeff Slater that tied the game early in the second quarter. Perry responded with a 14-yard touchdown run from Sean Blosser that gave the Kaws a 14-7 lead.
The Lions bounced back with two touchdowns in 24 seconds - a 71-yard touchdown strike from Matt Warner to Slater, followed by an interception from Joe Kohl and a 21-yard touchdown pass from Warner to Ryan Robbins - to take a 21-14 lead. Robbins added a 37-yard field goal as time expired, giving LHS a 24-14 lead at halftime.
"That field goal right there before halftime was key," Pekarek said.
It was Lansing's first field goal of the year, and it also turned out to be the difference in the game.
Cory McPherson scored on a 49-yard run early in the third quarter to pull Perry within three, but another interception by Kohl set a one-yard touchdown by Lance Fink that gave Lansing a 31-21 lead with 2:09 left in the third quarter.
Lansing looked poised to close out the victory, but a fumble by Kyle Grape gave the ball back to Perry. Foltz connected with McPherson on a 35-yard strike to make the score 31-28 with 2:07 remaining.
The Kaws then recovered an onside kick that skipped of Kohl's hands.
"I thought I had it, but it just popped out of my hands," Kohl said. "That was big."
What was bigger was Lansing's defensive effort in the final seconds. Perry drove all the way to the Lansing 16 before coming up just short on fourth down.
"We stuck together as a team," Warner said. "Everyone was there."
The Lions advanced to the regional championship game for the second straight year. They will play the No. 1-ranked Holton Wildcats at 7 p.m. Saturday at Frank Graham Field.
Lansing now is No. 20 in Metro Sports' Super 25 poll.