Perry Up on the Kansas River bluffs in Lecompton and across the Kaw on the alluvial plains of Perry, they’ve run out of adjectives to describe Shane Gimzo.
So they’ve switched to nouns.
“He’s Batman,” Perry-Lecompton High end Joel Gantz said. “He’s a super-hero.”
“He’s the greatest athlete I’ve ever seen,” added teammate Caleb Wege.
Gimzo ran for four touchdowns and passed for two more as the Kaws hammered Holton, 56-35, on Friday night at Brunton Field to earn a berth in Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game in Salina against Topeka Hayden.
Yes, the school that had won only one playoff game in its first 37 years of existence has reached the state title contest with Gimzo playing the lead role.
Typically, however, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound quarterback wouldn’t talk about his 389 yards of total offense and his multiple scores, shifting credit to his fellow seniors.
“This is the best senior class,” said Gimzo, who lives in Lecompton and as a youth played Little League football in Lawrence. “I couldn’t ask for a better class.”
On paper, this one looks like a rout. It wasn’t. In fact, Holton led, 35-34, early in the fourth quarter, and the Kaws were sputtering on offense.
“It felt like déjà vu,” said Wege, referring to the first meeting between the two teams in the season opener. In that one, Perry-Lecompton led, 21-17, at the half, but withered down the stretch and suffered a 44-21 thumping.
“We just weren’t going to do that again, not again,” P-L coach Mike Paramore said, his voice breaking with emotion.
The Kaws (10-3) did not let it happen again, thanks in large part to a questionable decision by Holton coach Brooks Barta. With about seven minutes remaining, the Wildcats were at midfield facing a fourth-and-five situation and, instead of punting and sticking the Kaws deep in their own territory, Barta opted to go for it.
Bad decision. Running back Kaleb Smith, stuffed by Wege and Gantz, made only two yards, and the Kaws took over with 6:55 remaining.
Two plays later, Gimzo rolled to his right looking to pass, then scrambled left, broke free and raced 52 yards into the end zone to give the Kaws at 42-35 lead with 6:31 left.
Holton still had plenty of time in this offensive free-for-all, but the Wildcats stalled and punted, and the Kaws took over again near midfield. Four plays later came the back-breaker. Gimzo busted free for a 34-yard TD scamper with 2:40 showing, and Perry-Lecompton led, 49-35.
Gimzo would score another TD on a short run with 1:50 remaining following an Eric Hastert interception, and then and only then did Gimzo know he wasn’t dreaming.
“It hit me,” he said, “when we scored that last touchdown.”
Afterward, the Kaws spent several minutes on the field, celebrating with friends and relatives their unlikely journey through the playoffs as a team with three defeats during the regular season.
“That’s our kids,” Paramore said. “They’ve learned to fight through adversity. You just keep playing.”