Looking for another crown: Passing game leads Olathe into second title game in 3 years
OLATHE — A season that once looked dismal is now full of promise.
The Olathe High School football team will play for its second state title in three years after avenging an early season loss Saturday with a 24-20 victory over Florence in the Class 2A state semifinals at Wilson Field.
“When we lost to them the first time, we felt we played one of our worst games ever,” Olathe coach Ryan Corn said. “We took a deep look at what we were doing and questioned a lot of it. Once the kids had their own meeting, they bought into it.
“This is the best team I’ve had as far as execution. They buy into everything better than any team I’ve coached. It’s been a fun year.”
Olathe plays Brush at 11 a.m. on Saturday in the title game at Legacy Stadium in Aurora.
The Pirates (11-2) bought into taking chances with the passing game.
Quarterback Keifer Wollert completed 6 of 12 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns to stun the Huskies (12-1). Kyle Piatt rushed for 107 yards, including 78 in the second half.
“Keifer Wollert did a great job,” Corn said. “He had a lot more poise in there today than the first time we met them. He did a heck of a job.”
Wollert got the offense started early. He faked a screen pass on third-and-three, then hit Zach Cosper over the top for a 73-yard touchdown to tie the game 7-7 early in the second quarter.
“Coach came up with that,” Wollert said. “The line gave me plenty of time. I did a pump-fake. Cosper did a great job running under it.”
Wollert scored on a 47-yard run on the next possession for a 14-7 lead.
The Pirates’ defense set up the next score.
Piatt hit Florence quarterback Cody Nichols and forced a fumble that Joe McCracken recovered.
After Wollert successfully converted a fourth-and-one run, he hit Cosper for a 21-yard score and a 21-7 lead.
“We run the triple option, so you want a quarterback that’s a go-getter, so you don’t necessarily have the best passer,” Corn said. “He’s doing both roles tremendously.”
Florence turned the ball over again on its next possession when Nichols was intercepted, but the Huskies’ Cody Mathewson picked off a deflected pass to get it back.
One play later, Nichols hit tight end Austin Reeves for a 65-yard touchdown over the top of the defense to get within one touchdown with 1:29 left in the first half.
“We just put our tight end out there on that corner,” Florence coach Mark Buderus said. “We put the ball up in the air and the tight end went and got it. We had to have somebody go make some plays because we were struggling in the second quarter. We had some penalties, bad field position and were losing momentum.”
The long score gave Florence a little spark and then Olathe added some fuel to the fire.
Wollert fumbled on the Pirates’ next possession and sprained his left knee.
Nichols took advantage, hooking up with Reeves for a 43-yard pass to the Olathe 1. Tyler Faoro scored on the next play with 11 seconds left. Florence trailed 21-20 at the half.
“I was mad at myself for fumbling,” said Wollert, who returned in the second half. “I knew I’d come back. There was nothing keeping me out of this game.”
Olathe successfully moved the ball in the second half, but only had a field goal to show for it.
The Pirates didn’t need more than that because their defense allowed only two first downs the entire half. Florence’s best chance to score came early in the fourth quarter when it had a fourth-and-three at Olathe’s 16, but Cody Harrison stopped Alexander short.
“We knew that was a key play,” Harrison said. “We had to come together as a defense.”