Rhodes paves way for Olathe in Class 2A
OLATHE — David Rhodes breaking tackles while running the football got Olathe High School into the Class 2A state semifinals, but Saturday against Faith Christian, it was a tackle that propelled the Pirates to the championship game.
With the Pirates leading 14-6 and less than two minutes to play, the Eagles had managed to drive 60 yards, setting up a third-and-9 at the Pirates’ 21-yard line.
Faith Christian quarterback Micah Twedell rolled out to his right and when the space closed in a hurry, Rhodes sacked Twedell for a 13-yard loss from his defensive end post.
The sack set up a difficult fourth-and-23. Twedell’s last-ditch effort fell incomplete, giving the Pirates a 14-6 win and a trip to the Class 2A state title game this weekend in Aurora.
“We knew that when they came out in the bunch formation we had to get out(side) because they
were going to roll out,” Rhodes said. “I knew that, so I got around a couple of blocks and made it there.”
It seemed fitting that the defining play was made by the defense in a chess match of a game in which neither team created big plays offensively.
Both teams had less than 230 yards of total offense and had no play from scrimmage go for more than 30 yards.
“That last drive where we stopped them, our defense really showed up,” Olathe coach Ryan Corn said. “Those kids are playing with a ton of heart.”
The Pirates’ defense allowed one long drive all day and held a Faith Christian team that had scored less than 28 points only once this season to six points.
Richard Rush scored on a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter for Faith Christian. Olathe frustrated the Eagles’ passing game the entire day, allowing zero passing yards on one reception in the first half.
“We knew going in it was going to be a defensive battle,” Corn said. “That is exactly what it was.”
The Pirates’ special teams were another deciding factor. Both of Olathe’s touchdowns were set up by critical special teams plays.
In the first half, both teams struggled to get anything going offensively and with about seven minutes left in the second quarter, Olathe had another drive sputter.
Zachary Stansberry’s punt was low and sped toward Faith Christian’s return man, Ian Henry, who called for a fair catch but couldn’t handle the football. Dylan Markley fell on it for the Pirates.
Markley was rewarded with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Garhett Jurgens for the first and only score of the first half.
Olathe’s next big special teams play came early in the fourth quarter. The Pirates led 7-6 and were looking to keep the momentum. The Eagles had a drive stall at midfield and kicked to Markley.
Aided by a Rhodes block, Markley returned the punt to the Faith Christian 41-yard line.
“That was awesome because we are playing the field position game,” Rhodes said. “That just helped us out so much more.”
Rhodes scored seven plays later on a 5-yard run. The 5-foot-9 senior had 131 yards on 27 carries.
“We are a true believer that special teams will be the thing that makes the difference,” Corn said.
“When (Dylan) set up that return, it worked out well for us.”
Olathe tight end Chris Brummitt said in his eyes, the return helped clinch the game for Olathe.
“It was very important because if we could score at that point it was going to twist the knife,” Brummitt said. “We knew had to take some time off the clock and find the end zone.”
The win sets up a game Saturday with Erie, which defeated No. 1 seed Platte Canyon 28-21. The championship game is at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Legacy Stadium at Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora.
“It feels good that we took that next step to be in the finals and we are going to celebrate it and be happy with it,” Corn said.
“But come Sunday we are going to start working toward what we want, which is the golden ball. That has been our goal since day one.”