Eagles’ success reminiscent of LHS

Olathe North knows what it takes to win, just like Lions did during their heyday

This is how Lawrence High must have felt in the late ’80s and early ’90s. When the Lions won eight Class 6A state titles between 1986 and 1995, they were the toast of Kansas.

Olathe North, in smoking Derby 41-12 for its sixth title in seven years on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, is in that same vein.

The Eagles, who finished 13-0 and won their 38th straight game, were down 7-0 early to Derby. An inexperienced team might have panicked. Not O-North.

“Oh, no,” Eagles coach Gene Wier said. “We talked about those things before the game. We knew that if we were down, we could come back.”

It’s reminiscent of those great LHS teams. The ’93 Lions were down 23-0 to Derby at halftime, yet scored 27 points in the second half for the win. It’s something LHS coach Dirk Wedd talks about often – winning a big game just because you believe you can.

Though Derby coach Tom Young would dispute that.

“I think a lot of that stuff is overrated,” he said. “There’s two ways to look at it. I thought our kids would be hungry because we haven’t been here in seven years. Olathe North was just more physical.”

That’s true. The Eagles dominated on the offensive and defensive lines, allowing running back Jim Bouknight to rush for 183 yards and three touchdowns. Panther quarterback Elmer Tagatec played marvelously, rushing for 81 yards and completing seven of 21 passes for 127 yards. He was the best thing Derby had, but he couldn’t offset everything O-North had.

Amazingly, this was supposed to be the year the rest of the state had a shot at dethroning the Eagles. They lost seven defensive and eight offensive starters from last year’s title team. Yet the Eagles reloaded, and won more games in one season than ever before.

That’s what LHS used to do, and is trying to do now. But how does one build a program like that?

“Hard work,” Eagles quarterback Dallas Browning said. “Three-hundred sixty-five days a year, we work as hard as we can.”

As painful for LHS fans to admit, the Eagles’ program is as good – maybe even better – than LHS used to be.

I’ve heard the stories about the 1995 semifinal game between LHS and O-North. It may have been the best team Wier’s ever had, with a dozen players that ended up playing Division I football. The Eagles had beaten LHS 32-19 earlier that season, yet were handed a 32-7 defeat in the playoffs.

That Lion team knew it would win that game. Just like the Eagles did on Saturday.

“Obviously we weren’t a dominant team this year,” Wier said. “But on the field this day, we proved we were the best team in the state of Kansas.”