Less than a minute is all the Collegiate football team needed during a preseason meeting to declare its 2015 season motto as “unfinished business.” Usually there’s some conversation about the perfect saying, but it was clear to coach Mike Gehrer that it had already been determined.
The Spartans’ motto encapsulates their frustration with the 26-6 loss at Scott City in the 2014 Class 3A quarterfinals.
“The fact that we were playing at such a high level and how quickly it can go away,” senior Jack Larsen said. “That really resonated with this year’s senior class.”
Collegiate (11-0) plays host to Norton (9-2) in the 3A quarterfinals at 3 p.m. Saturday. Norton ended Scott’s City season with a comeback in the final minute.
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Northwest believes its 2014 season ended too soon, as well. The Grizzlies (10-0) play host to Free State (7-3) at 7 Friday night in the 6A quarterfinals.
Free State opened the season with three straight losses by a combined 14 points but has wins over Shawnee Mission East, Manhattan and Topeka. Northwest has scored 493 points and in the season opener, beat Bishop Carroll for the first time since 2005.
Free State beat Northwest 27-16 in the 2014 first round.
“Our kids are very well aware that Free State beat us last year,” Northwest coach Steve Martin said. “… We went into the Free State game thinking we had a chance.”
But on a first down inside the Free State 10 with 3:30 remaining, Northwest lost a fumble.
“We had a bad taste in our mouth,” Martin said. “We’ve talked about getting redemption on Carroll, some redemption on Hutchinson. It just so happens we get to play Free State and get to play them at home. Our kids are excited. They’re about as focused as we’ve seen our guys.”
Northwest quarterback Kevin Folsom’s year ended midway through the regular season with a foot injury. Martin said Folsom had to be restrained because he was trying to cut off his cast so he could play.
The Grizzlies learned from that loss.
“We had some injuries that threw us off track,” Northwest senior Branden Ho said. “We’ve come together and overcome adversity now. Last year, during that game, we didn’t face adversity well.”
The loss to Scott City stung Collegiate because it already had two postseason wins.
“Last year was going well. We had that big comeback against Conway (Springs) and then beat Hesston,” Larsen said. “We played really well. We were super confident. Everything was going well. We went up to Scott City. We didn’t hit a wall, but we weren’t executing. It was 180 degrees in the other direction.”
The expectation of winning is the same, but now Collegiate, which is averaging 59.5 points, has additional knowledge.
“This is a path that we’ve got down before. We had to figure it out,” Gehrer said. “You’ve been there, you didn’t get it finished and now you know what to expect. You can anticipate the level of competition.
“Everyone is on a roll. Everyone is emotionally up.”