Lawrence High football players were speechless on Friday night. Coaches raised their eyebrows in disbelief with incredulous looks.
After watching Olathe North score three unanswered touchdowns in less than five minutes, the Lions had one play left to keep their undefeated season alive.
On fourth down with 12 seconds left, LHS senior quarterback Alan Clothier tossed a 26-yard fade pass down the left sideline, and senior receiver Luke Padia caught the ball in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in a 31-28 thriller at LHS on Senior Night.
Padia was a step behind his defender in one-on-one coverage and caught the game-winner over his left shoulder, immediately raising his arms once he secured the catch and placed his feet inbounds. He was mobbed by his teammates on the field and sidelines. The student section rushed the field after the final horn.
“I know just from working in practice if I can get inside of the cornerback early in my route and get outside, Alan is going to put it on my back shoulder and it’s going to be money right there,” Padia said. “That’s how it played out. Perfect throw and perfect catch.”
The final minutes and game-winning play rewrote the definition for “crazy.” Entering Friday, Padia had one catch for three yards. He jumped over a defender in the first quarter for a catch on a jump-ball and ran 58 yards for a touchdown — his first varsity touchdown.
The 6-foot-2 Padia, who starts in the outfield for the baseball team, was also playing in front of his father for the first time in his high school career.
“It’s just awesome to do it in front of him and ecstatic he got to see it,” Padia said of his dad.
The Eagles (7-1, 1-1 in districts) nearly shocked the Lions with huge plays by 6-foot-4, 210-pound receiver Isaiah Simmons. He caught three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, helping Olathe North turn a 24-7 deficit with just more than five minutes remaining into a 28-24 lead.
Simmons, who was held without a catch in the first half, caught a 60-yard strike from quarterback Matt Wright with 2:20 left. Then, after the Lions couldn’t convert a first down to run out the clock, Simmons found space in the middle of the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown with 1:02 remaining. LHS defensive backs dropped their heads to the field after the go-ahead score.
“We haven’t been behind that much this year,” Clothier said. “Our hearts just dropped. We didn’t know what to do.”
With 62 seconds to drive 65 yards down the field, Clothier found senior receiver J’Mony Bryant for a 36-yard connection on a 3rd-and-15 pass.
On the next snap, the Lions (8-0, 2-0) called their “Four Verticals” play and Clothier tried to throw a fade pass to Padia, but the pass slipped a little and flung out of bounds.
Three plays later, the Lions called the same play and Clothier made sure he found his receiver.
“I knew we had one shot. It was a little shaky but I just tried to give him as best of a ball as I could and he caught it,” said Clothier, who tossed for 138 yards and ran for another 58 yards, including a one-yard touchdown on a QB sneak. “It was just right in the perfect spot.”
In the first half, the Lions took advantage of a couple of Olathe North turnovers, with defensive linemen Jake Unruh and Nate Koehn recovering fumbles. Senior running back JD Woods, who was held to 92 yards on 29 carries, tossed a 20-yard halfback pass to Ivan Hollins for a touchdown.
When the Eagles avoided fumbles, they moved the ball down the field until the Lions would strike with tackles in the backfield by Unruh, Koehn, Amani Bledsoe, Price Morgan, Santino Gee, Erik Shackelford and Tanner Green.
In the locker room following their comeback victory, the Lions sang the hook of “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang.
“It was unbelievable,” Padia said. “Senior Night. Backs against the wall with a minute and two seconds left. Our senior quarterback eases us down the field. Steps up and makes plays and puts the ball right where I needed it to be.”
First downs 15 12
Rushes-yards 35-223 39-150
Passing yards 169 166
Total offense 392 316
Return yards 53 46
Fumbles-lost 4-2 1-0
Penalties-yards 4-20 3-25
Score by quarters
O-North 0 7 0 21 — 28
Lawrence 17 0 7 7 — 31
ON: Vinson Shabazz 18-126 TD, Matt Wright 14-93, Deion Poindexter 2-(negative) 1, Isaiah Simmons 1-5.
LHS: JD Woods 29-92, Alan Clothier 16-58 TD.
ON: Wright 12-26–169 3 TD.
LHS: Clothier 7-14–138 2 TD, Cade Burghart 1-1-8, JD Woods 1-1-20 TD.
ON: Shabazz 2-3, Caleb Underwood 1-5, Si Martin 1-12, Simmons 5-120 3 TD, Storey Jackson 3-29.
LHS: Price Morgan 1-13, Devin Lauts 1-8, Luke Padia 2-84 2 TD, Nick Williams 1-0, Ivan Hollins 1-20 TD, Woods 2-5, J’Mony Bryant 1-36.
HOW THEY SCORED
8:25 — Cole Brungardt 33 field goal. (LHS 3, ON 0.)
1:51 — Luke Padia 58 pass from Alan Clothier. Brungardt kick. (LHS 10, ON 0.)
1:00 — Ivan Hollins 20 pass from JD Woods. Brungardt kick. (LHS 17, ON 0.)
10:20 — Vinson Shabazz 15 run. Riley Alderman kick. (LHS 17, ON 7.)
0:00 — Clother 1 run. Brungardt kick. (LHS 24, ON 7.)
5:13 — Isaiah Simmons 7 pass from Matt Wright. Alderman kick. (LHS 24, ON 14.)
2:20 — Simmons 60 pass from Wright. Alderman kick. (LHS 24, ON 21.)
1:18 — Simmons 35 pass from Wright. Alderman kick. (ON 28, LHS 24.)
0:04 — Padia 26 pass from Clothier. Brungardt kick. (LHS 31, ON 28.)