Kickapoo stared defeat in the eye and didn’t flinch.
With less than 90 seconds to play, the undefeated Chiefs needed only four plays to travel 67 yards to find the end zone with a game-winning run by quarterback Chris Lawson to capture a Class 6 District 4 win, 30-26, over Lee’s Summit at home in the state tournament opener.
As the student section poured onto the field, so poured the emotions from Lawson and tailback Malachi Stout.
“It’s unbelievable,” Lawson said. “I know we had faith in ourselves the whole time. We never got down on ourselves and it was a heck of a game. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Kickapoo trailed by 23-10 early in the third quarter after a forgettable first half.
“Not much more could have gone wrong in that first half and we were only down by six (points), so we knew we were in it the whole game,” Lawson said.
Stout, Kickapoo’s senior running back, ran for a game-high 139 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He bounced back from a rough first half in which he lost two fumbles and muffed a punt which was recovered by the Tigers.
“We probably played the worst half of football in that first half, and a large part of that was on me,” Stout said. “We had each other’s backs and we stayed up and got a victory.”
Stout didn’t let the misplays stay with him for long, turning to the mindset of a baseball relief pitcher.
“I have this five second rule: good or bad, you have five seconds to think about it and then you move on,” he explained.
Kickapoo scored 14 unanswered points before a Lee’s Summit field goal set up the Chiefs’ definitive, backs-against-the-wall drive.
Trailing 26-24 with 1:25 on the clock, Lawson got to work from his own 33-yard line, flinging a deep ball to senior receiver Mason Pack in traffic. Pack attacked the ball in midair, secured it over and through a pair of defenders and tumbled to the Lee’s Summit 33.
Lawson scrambled for 32 yards on the next snap before he was finally forced out at the 1. Stout was dropped at the 4 before Lawson punched in a touchdown.
“(That last drive) is all kind of a blur. We had to score, march down the field. Mason Pack made a great catch,” Lawson said. “We knew we had to get it right there.”
The Chiefs (10-0) advance to the second round of the state playoffs despite getting outgained by more than 100 yards. Lee’s Summit had 477 yards of total offense to Kickapoo’s 370.
Pack caught a fourth-down touchdown on a fade route from Lawson in the third. Pack had three catches for 51 yards.
Lee’s Summit quarterback Dalton Hill threw for 212 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Lawson was 6-for-8 passing for 95 yards and a TD.
Stout now has 24 touchdowns on the season, 28 on the ground.
Kickapoo, the top seed in the district hosts the winner of Lee’s Summit West and Lee’s Summit North.
The loss ended Lee’s Summit season at 3-7.