Numbers game helps Olathe bring trophy home
AURORA — Olathe will never take an extra point for granted.
Freshman Sergio Salazar kicked the winning extra point Saturday only minutes after Erie’s Ryan Hawkins missed his kick, giving the Pirates a thrilling 22-21 overtime victory and the Class 2A state championship at Legacy Stadium.
“I was just focused on making it,” Salazar said. “My team blocked for me and I got enough leg to get it through.”
Olathe won the first state football championship in school history.
“I am on cloud nine. This is awesome,” Olathe coach Ryan Corn said. “We are excited to end up 14-0 and it is a great feeling.”
Overtime heroics earned the Pirates championship gold, but Olathe had an opportunity to end the game at the end of regulation.
With Erie driving, Garhett Jurgens recovered a Hawkins fumble with less than one minute left.
The Pirates were able to drive the ball to the Erie 29, aided by a 36-yard run by David Rhodes but a blocked 47-yard field goal attempt by Salazar sent the game into overtime.
Alex Ortega ran the ball three times for the Tigers and ended up scoring the go-ahead touchdown from 2 yards out. Hawkins’ point-after glanced off the left upright.
“The extra point changes the game, as you can see. I saw it hit the goal post and come back out,” Olathe linebacker Chris Brummitt said. “It was an awesome feeling because I knew we
On Olathe’s overtime series, Rhodes took three carries to score.
Salazar calmly knocked the extra point through, sending the Olathe sideline into a frenzy.
“That kid is the only freshman on varsity and when you put him at the kicker position, it is always scary,” Corn said. “He came through when it mattered.”
Jurgens, the holder on the PAT, said the Pirates were trying their best to approach the crucial kick the same way as any other kick.
“It was a little nervous but were just trying to keep it like any other PAT,” Jurgens said. “He put it right through the uprights and I am so proud of that kid.”
Salazar wasn’t alone when it came to coming up big when it mattered. The Pirates overcame an 8-3 halftime deficit, making big plays when they needed them.
The Pirates adjusted to the Tigers’ double-wing offense, which caused them trouble in the first half. In the second half, Olathe stuffed the Tigers on three fourth-down attempts and allowed only Mike Chambers’ 14-yard touchdown in the second half.
“We widened out our defensive ends and had to get guys flying out to the edge,” Brummitt said.
“We had to start pursuing better and making tackles.”
Offensively, the Pirates bounced back from an inconsistent first half in which they allowed a safety and only scored on a 36-yard field goal by Salazar.
In the second half, though, Rhodes scored on touchdown runs of 3 and 57 yards.
“It took us a little while to figure out what they were doing defensively, but once we did, we knew we could win,” Corn said. “That has been our mantra all year; it might take us a little bit of time to figure it out, but once we do, we are good.”
Rhodes was relatively quiet in the third quarter but with less than a minute left, the senior running back broke off a 45-yard run that set up his 3-yard TD for a 9-8 lead.
Chambers gave the Tigers a 15-9 lead on the ensuing drive, but it didn’t take long for the Pirates to come back again.
Rhodes scored on a 57-yard run up the middle to tie the game at 15-15.
“David Rhodes is the best running back in the state and it is great to have him on our team,” Brummitt said.
Rhodes had a monster game, finishing with 225 yards on 22 carries.
Erie was led by Ortega’s 137 yards rushing. Chambers added 101 yards on 29 carries.
“It was a great group of kids and they don’t deserve to go out this way, but someone has to lose,” Erie coach Larry Gartrell said. “We have been able to dodge bullets all year but we just couldn’t dodge this one.”
For the Pirates, it was the culmination of a memorable year.
“I can’t explain it, this has been my dream since I was 3,” Jurgens said. “When the ball went through the uprights, I felt like my dreams became a reality.”