Three seasons and two state championships later Olathe North still remembers the 1995 state semifinal.
On a snowy November night at Haskell Stadium in '95, Lawrence High knocked off unbeaten O-North, 32-7, for the most lopsided playoff contest between the two schools. A month after the victory, LHS ticked off Olathe North even more by printing shirts declaring, "Any time, any place, any weather."
"That game still kind of burns my behind," said O-North coach Gene Wier, whose team since has won six consecutive playoff games and back-to-back 6A state titles.
The Eagles, 7-2 and ranked No. 3 in 6A, will play host to LHS (5-4) on Friday in the state quarterfinals. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Olathe District Activities Center.
That loss three years ago was the Eagles' latest heartache in the playoffs against the Lions. Though successful against LHS during the regular season in recent years, O-North has never beaten the Lions in the playoffs. LHS is 6-0 against the Eagles in the postseason and went on to win a state title all six of those years.
"There have been some great games," said Wier, 141-34 in 18 years at O-North. "Lawrence High is Lawrence High and Olathe North is Olathe North. There's going to be some collisions. We respect all the teams we play, but we have a special respect for Lawrence High."
Five weeks ago Olathe North beat the Lions, 20-12, and the Eagles haven't lost since. The Eagles have won five in a row and steamrolled through their district with victories over Kansas City Washington (46-17), Olathe South (41-14) and Olathe East (36-22).
"We're better than we were then, so is everybody else," Wier said. "We just try to prepare and play and take it day by day."
Senior running back Beno Gore, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound speedster, headlines the Eagles' offense. He won the Sunflower League rushing title with 1,358 yards on 184 carries (7.4 yards per carry) and 20 touchdowns. Gore has been hampered by a groin injury this week.
"He's a pretty tough kid," Wier said. "I think he's had a good year. I think the playoffs are where you have to step up."
Gore rushed 17 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns in O-North's win over LHS last month. Sophomore Darren Sproles, Gore's backup, had 15 carries for 86 yards and touchdown run. Sproles finished with 615 yards on 84 carries (7.3 yards a carry) and six touchdowns.
O-North, which has won four consecutive Sunflower titles, averaged 293.9 rushing yards a game to lead the league.
The Eagles opened the '98 season with a 42-27 loss to Free State that snapped their 24-game winning streak. LHS advanced to the state playoffs with a 28-24 victory over Free State in last week's district final.
Wier wasn't surprised by that outcome.
"Not at all," Wier said. "I think Free State is very talented. On paper they look like the better team, but I've been involved in rivalries that the most talented teams don't always win. In rivalry games, you can throw out the record."
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