When Blue Valley Northwest elected to attempt a two-point conversion with 1:31 remaining Friday, three yards stood as the difference between Lawrence High’s football team advancing in the playoffs and the end of the season.
Leading by one point, the Lions had time to think about the decisive play between two timeouts. Once they lined up, Lawrence’s players put all of their focus on quarterback Jackson Heath, who had already rushed for 156 yards.
“All of our minds were racing,” LHS junior defensive end Sam Bart said. “We knew the season was on the line.”
Heath took the snap and ran behind his blockers to his right. With a blitz, the Lions were in the perfect position for junior linebacker Caleb Mondi and Bart to combine on a game-winning stop in a 28-27 victory in the first round of the playoffs at LHS.
“I kind of hit him, but he’s huge,” Mondi said of the 6-foot-4, 218-pound Heath, who caught the Lions by surprise lining up at quarterback instead of his usual tight end for most of the night. “I had to get back on my feet and pull him back so he wouldn’t score. Then everyone just ganged in on him.”
If the game-winning tackle wasn’t enough, Mondi secured the ensuing onside kick, which bounced around before referees determined senior Harry King declared a fair catch on the high kick. That allowed the Lions to run out the rest of the clock, breathing a sigh of relief once they could finally celebrate their win.
The Huskies (2-7) nearly climbed back with two touchdowns in the final seven minutes. On 4th-and-5, freshman linebacker Cole Mondi provided pressure on a blitz, but BVNW quarterback Payton Hartman, who split time at QB with Heath, lofted the ball in the air on a screen pass. The ball deflected off of a LHS defensive lineman into the hands of BVNW’s Garrett Parks for a 43-yard touchdown pass.
“That was crazy,” Caleb Mondi said.
On BVNW’s final possession, Heath was nearly tackled at the line of scrimmage during the 10-play drive, but alertly lateraled the ball to Parks for a 20-yard touchdown run. Instead of tying the score, the Huskies opted to go for two points.
“We all knew what we had to do,” Bart said. “They knew what they had to do. It was just a physical contest and we came out on top.”
Lawrence (5-4) senior running back Angel Garcia ran for two touchdowns in the second half after senior Hunter Krom (14 carries, 89 yards, TD) exited with an injury.
Dynamic LHS senior quarterback Dante Jackson set up the scoring drive at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a 35-yard run on 3rd-and-13. Two plays later, Garcia was in the end zone. Jackson added a 64-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game.
“We weren’t real, real good offensively,” Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd said. “I thought that first touchdown came too easily and we thought it’s going to be one of those deals.”
Even with some offensive punch, the season was decided with Lawrence’s defense, which featured virtually all new starters at the beginning of the year.
After the two-point conversion stop, Caleb Mondi remembered how Wedd took players around the field during practice Thursday to point out some of the program’s most memorable plays.
“We were just going through all these memories on each yard line, his best memories,” Mondi said. “I thought I’d make one right there.”
The Lions will travel to Olathe North (6-3) next week at the Olathe District Activity Center.
LAWRENCE 28, BLUE VALLEY NORTHWEST 27
BVNW | LHS
First downs 19 | 13
Rushes-yards 51-336 | 51-355
Passing yards 82 | 23
Total offense 417 | 378
Fumbles-lost 3-2 | 2-2
Penalties-yards 4-40 | 3-25
Score by quarters
Northwest 0 7 7 13 — 27
Lawrence 14 0 7 7 — 28
BVNW: Edward Thomas 23-148 TD, Jackson Heath 21-156 TD, Garrett Parks 5-38 TD, Luke Vega 1-negative 1, Payton Hartman 1-negative 5, Team 1-negative 3.
LHS: Dante Jackson 17-143 TD, Hunter Krom 14-89 TD, Angel Garcia 20-123 2 TD.
BVNW: Hartman 7-19—82 TD, Heath 0-1—0
LHS: Jackson 5-9—23.
BVNW: Thomas 1-2, Heath 4-31, Andrew Kolpin 1-6, Parks 1-43 TD.
LHS: Bryson Cummins 1-5, Jalen Dudley 2-14, Ekow Boye-Doe 2-4.
HOW THEY SCORED
11:43 — Dante Jackson 64 run. Ross Brungardt kick. (LHS 7, BVNW 0.)
1:29 — Hunter Krom 1 run. Brungardt kick. (LHS 14, BVNW 0.)
0:20 — Edward Thomas 4 run. Nick Young kick. (LHS 14, BVNW 7.)
9:01 — Angel Garcia 50 run. Brungardt kick. (LHS 21, BVNW 7.)
5:44 — Jackson Heath 4 run. Young kick. (LHS 21, BVNW 14.)
8:11 — Garcia 2 run. Brungardt kick. (LHS 28, BVNW 14.)
6:13 — Garrett Parks 43 pass from Payton Hartman. Young kick. (LHS 28, BVNW 21.)
1:31 — Parks 20 run. Heath run failed. (LHS 28, BVNW 27.)