No matter how you frame it, playoff losses hurt.
Kickapoo’s dream of back-to-back district championships and a deep playoff run ended Friday at Pottenger Stadium with a 26-3 loss to Rockhurst (8-2). The Hawklets advance to play Lee’s Summit West, 20-13 winners over Raymore Peculiar, for the Class 6 District 4 championship in the state playoff quarterfinals.
Kickapoo (9-2) bids farewell to a class of 31 senior football players who went a combined 28-7 over three varsity seasons. Senior linebacker Travis Vokolek relished in the togetherness the group shares.
“Coming out here to play with my teammates, we’re brothers forever—and we play our hardest. The outcome is what it is,” Vokolek said.
Chiefs coach Kurt Thompson tried to stress the body of a career holding more weight than the outcome of one playoff game in his postgame address to the players, and it seemed to resonate with Vokolek.
“I’ll definitely look back and know that it was a fun time, the best time of my life as far as I’ve lived right now, of course. I know we definitely succeeded for—nothing to have our heads down for. I mean, we tried our hardest,” Vokolek said.
Rockhurst scored on its first possession of the game on a seven play, 63-yard tried capped with a six-yard touchdown run by Brady McCanles. McCanles finished the game with 191 yards rushing on 19 carries.
Hawklets quarterback Chance May rushed for 111 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 14 carries. May was 10-of-15 passing for 153 yards and one touchdown pass to Jacob Sykes.
Rockhurst coach Tony Severino said the efforts of McCanles and May on the ground were up to par.
“That’s what we expect out of those two guys, they’re heavy hitters. They’re not going break many, but they’re going to get you yards and they’re not going to make many mistakes,” Severino said.
Rockhurst’s defense held a Kickapoo offense that had averaged 43.9 points per game without a touchdown. Kickapoo’s only scoring came when soccer defender Joshua Scheiderer boomed a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Staunch defense was a key part of Severino’s plan for the season.
“Last year we averaged over 30 points per game and we had a losing season, and I made a vow and we took all winter. We said, ‘We’re going to go back to playing Rockhurst defense,’” Severino said. “Everything we did this year was to concentrate on playing great defense. We put our best players there.”
Some of the toughness translates into the Hawklets’ rushing attack.
“We sacrificed a little bit on offense, but we do have some pretty tough kids. So we just decided that’s the way were going to win. If we have to win ugly, we’ll win ugly, we don’t care” Severino said.
Thompson tipped his cap to Rockhurst’s defense.
“They have no weaknesses. They don’t give up big plays,” Thompson said. “We left a few plays out there, but this time of year you have to make plays when you get a chance.”
In his final high school game, Kickapoo quarterback Chris Lawson was 20-of-30 passing for 191 yards. His top target Robbie Merced had 10 receptions for 150 yards. Senior Corey Dye had eight receptions for 38 yards, but the Chiefs were limited to just 21 yards rushing.
“We got beat by a darn good football team tonight. We knew that coming in that they were pretty special, very good defensively,” Thompson said.
Kickapoo, in its second season in Class 6, is sure to pick up some postseason awards, with the senior class looking to take its share of postseason honors.
“As good of football players as they are, they’re better character kids. They came to practice every day, didn’t have any problems, just a tremendous group of young men,” Thompson said.
Rockhurst 26, Kickapoo 3
Rockhurst—Brady McCanles 6-yard run (kick failed)
Kickapoo—Joshua Scheiderer 47-yard field goal
Rockhurst—Jacob Sykes 1-yard pass from Chance May (Eric Angrisano kick)
Rockhurst—May 2-yard run (Angrisano kick)
Rockhurst—May 1-yard run (kick failed)