A New Chapter
Perry-Lecompton High has won three Class 4A football games this fall. In its first 37 years, the school posted only one playoff victory.
2007 — Lost to Marysville in first round.
1999 — Lost to Holton in first round.
1994 — Lost to Basehor-Linwood in first round.
1981 — Lost to Hiawatha in first round.
1980 — Beat Atchison in first round, lost to Salina Sacred Heart in second round. (Note: This team finished 10-1, the best record in school history).
1979 — Lost to Clay Center in first round.
1978 — Lost to Atchison Maur Hill in first round.
Perry — So what if Perry-Lecompton High’s football magic carpet is flying under the radar. The Kaws love it.
“We’re used to not having as much media coverage,” senior end Joel Gantz said. “We like being the underdog.”
Four teams remain in the Class 4A football playoffs and three — Topeka Hayden, Andale and Holton — are traditional powers.
Perry-Lecompton? Well, in the first 37 years after the Perry High Kaws merged with the Lecompton High Owls in 1970, the school won a grand total of one football playoff game.
This year’s edition has already tripled that total and will be hoping to quadruple it tonight when the Kaws (9-3) play host to Holton (11-1).
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. at Brunton Field.
As usual, the Kaws will be underdogs when they face the once-beaten Wildcats, and why not? This is a rematch and Holton humbled the Kaws, 44-21, in the season opener back on Sept. 5.
“It’s good to have a second chance against them,” Gantz said. “We weren’t very good with the adversity we faced in the second half up there.”
The Kaws led, 21-17, at halftime, but crumbled after the break when they allowed a couple of mistakes and the Holton crowd to weaken their resolve.
Senior lineman Caleb Wege remembers that night all too well.
“We were excited, pumped up to play,” Wege said. “We got that lead at halftime and we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves, and we let that go to our heads.”
Perry-Lecompton bounced back from that downer and won four of its next five before opening district play at Eudora.
“That was a big game for us,” Wege said. “It went back and forth. Both teams couldn’t stop each other. We were starting to question if we could it, then we answered that against Eudora.”
Perry-Lecompton clipped the Cardinals, 41-33, but fell to Baldwin the next week, 35-28.
“Our heads were spinning in that game,” Mike Paramore, now in his eighth season as the Kaws’ coach, said of the Baldwin game. “We were down, 21-0, in the first quarter, but we bounced back to tie it at the half.”
Still, they lost that night and in order to win the district they had to defeat winless Santa Fe Trail by at least 13 points the next week. The Kaws won, 49-0, and have been on a roll ever since.
First they blanked De Soto, 23-0, in the bi-district playoff game, then they rocked Atchison, 31-13, and finally they stunned Louisburg last Friday, 35-23, to reach the 4A Final Four.
Paramore is hardly surprised by the Kaws’ late-season performance.
“We knew we could be special,” he said. “We had a good group of senior guys. They’re a good chemistry group with not a lot of egos.”
At 6-foot-5 and 222 pounds, Gantz is a load as both a receiver and a defender. And the 6-0, 219-pound Wege hubs a sizable, aggressive line.
But there’s little question the Kaws wouldn’t be where they are without Shane Gimzo, their talented 6-1, 180-pound senior quarterback.
“He’s pretty special,” Paramore said. “With us running the spread (offense), he can run it and throw it.”
Even more important, Paramore said, Gimzo has set an example.
“He has never missed a camp, a workout, anything in two years,” Paramore said. “That shows his commitment, his work ethic.”
Whether the Kaws can continue their journey through unfamiliar heights remains to be seen but, as Paramore said, “We’re going to ride it as far as we can.”