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Football Road to State
The boys varsity football team finished the regular season with an EKL Championship and the one seed in the 6A East. They have now won four straight playoff games and are playing in the 6A state championship.
November 3, 2021
Huskies defeats Blue Valley West, 35-7, to advance to first state title game in school history
The varsity football team defeated the Blue Valley West Jaguars, 35-7, in the substate championship, Nov. 19. Senior quarterback Mikey Pauley rushed for four of the Huskies’ five touchdowns.
Three years ago, the varsity football team finished the season with an 0-9 record. At the time, Clint Rider was in his second year as head coach and the current group of seniors were freshmen. After the final loss of the season that year, Rider delivered a speech which he said has had a lasting impact on the seniors over the last three years.
“We sat on this field, seniors. We came together after the game and we said if we stick together we’re going to do something really special. Now, you’ve brought this program back, you’ve lifted an entire community and now, you get to start lifting [trophies],” Rider said in the postgame huddle after defeating Blue Valley West.
Senior defensive back Sebastian Meriano said the team took Rider’s speech to heart and over the past three years they have worked hard to get to where they are now.
“I think the main thing is that we stuck together. Coach told us from the beginning that if we stuck together, we’d do special things. We convinced everybody to stay together and we worked hard every single year. All the work we put in over summer, in the weight room, and at practices, we gave 100 percent effort, and it’s starting to pay off now,” Meriano said.
The Huskies got off to a 14-0 lead behind rushing touchdowns of one and two yards from senior quarterback Mikey Pauley. The Jaguars responded with a long touchdown pass with two minutes remaining in the first half, making the score 14-7 going into halftime.
“Our offense started out hot, made a bunch of great plays and stayed very physical,” Pauley said. “Our defense really helped us out getting some big stops. We really just played off each other offensively and defensively.”
The third quarter was all in favor of the Huskies. Pauley started it off as he broke multiple tackles on the way to his third rushing touchdown of the game, a 39-yard rush to extend the Huskies lead, 21-7. Meriano intercepted a Jaguar pass, giving the ball back to the offense with 4:04 remaining in the third quarter.
“I haven’t got an interception this year, so it was a big weight off my shoulders. All the film I’ve been watching and all the hard work is paying off and my first interception of the season couldn’t have come at a better time,” Meriano said.
In West’s two prior playoff games, they entered halftime behind, but rallied in the third quarter to comeback and knock off Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission Northwest.
“They’ve had so many good third quarters. The last two games they’ve come out of the half really strong and we had been struggling a bit there in the second quarter, so we knew we had to get it together going into the second half,” Rider said. “Offensively, we connected on a couple of big play action passes and our defense was just unbelievable, they don’t get enough credit for our team. The big pick by [Meriano] was a huge lift and the turnovers played a huge part in the momentum and building that lead.”
Junior Grant Stubblefield found the end zone on a rush from 16 yards out 3:00 remaining in the third quarter. Senior Joe Samyn got another interception for the Huskies and they took over at the Jaguars’ 29-yard line. Pauley punched it in on a rush of four yards to give the Huskies a 35-7 lead, which would be the final score of the game.
The Huskies found success in the running game yet again, as Pauley and Stubblefield combined for 256 yards and five touchdowns on 46 carries. Pauley praised the offensive line for their hard work in preparation for the game and for how well they set up him and Stubblefield to have a successful game.
“The offensive line did their work early in the week, watching film, looking at the scouting report and having good practices. We really just followed their lead tonight and they helped us out majorly. It’s one of the best groups of guys you can find and they’re playing well and they’re playing hard,” Pauley said.
The 35-7 victory over the Jaguars marks the first time for the Northwest football team to play in the state championship. The Huskies will travel to Emporia State University’s Welch Stadium where they will take on Derby for the 6A state championship, Saturday Nov. 27.
“It’s going to be our school’s first state title game, so I’m looking forward to the challenge of it. I know they have a really great running back, but I hope our defense will hold them and our offense will just keep doing what they’ve been doing,” Meriano said.
With a week to prepare for the biggest game of the season, Pauley said the team is going to give maximum effort and come into the game ready to go with high intensity.
“We’re going to play with no regrets. It’s going to be our first time playing for a state title, so we’ve got nothing to lose and we’re going to play freely. We’re going to be loose and ready to go and Derby’s not going to know what hit them,” Pauley said.
Huskies stay hot, defeat Olathe North, 56-27, in sectionals
The varsity football team defeated the Olathe North Eagles, 56-27, to win the sectional championship, Nov. 12. Senior Mikey Pauley and junior Grant Stubblefield combined for 276 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
Following dominant wins over JC Harmon and Olathe South in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Huskies faced off against Olathe North in the sectional championship. Senior Drew Kaufman said the Huskies were prepared for a strong opponent and they wouldn’t take them lightly.
“We were really locked in this week. We knew they were going to be a tough opponent. Really, this game came down to us having a great week of practice,” Kaufman said.
The first quarter was a defensive showcase for both teams as the Huskies and Eagles failed to get a first down on each of their first two drives. After the Eagles’ second three-and-out, senior Gavin Biancalana blocked the punt and Kaufman returned the ball to the 3-yard line, setting up a rushing touchdown for junior Grant Stubblefield on the next play.
“Gavin’s blocked punt really sparked us. It was huge,” head coach Clint Rider said. “It let our offense get some points on the board with an easy touchdown and it kickstarted us and let us know we could play with these guys.”
On the first play of Northwest’s next drive, junior Grant Stubblefield broke through the Eagle’s defense for a 91-yard rushing touchdown, extending the lead, 14-0, with 53 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The Huskies continued to dominate on both sides of the ball in the second quarter. Senior Mikey Pauley found the endzone three times in the quarter as the Huskies entered halftime with a 35-0 lead.
“It was great. It’s always one of those things that is tough because you’re so excited and proud of what they’ve done but you can’t let up and it’s really hard to keep focus on that. We’ve got to do a better job of coming out of halftime prepared and knowing that the other team is going to be fighting for their playoff life and for some of them their high school career,” Rider said.
The Huskies’ defense was stifling in the first half, forcing multiple turnovers on downs and punts and keeping Eagles from getting on the scoreboard.
“Our defense performed better than I would have ever expected. We pitched a shutout in the first half and I just couldn’t be any happier with how we played,” Kaufman said.
The Eagles came out of halftime with a quick touchdown, but the Huskies responded as Stubblefield scored his third rushing touchdown of the game. Olathe North added another touchdown on their next drive, but Stubblefield responded yet again as he sped past the Eagles’ defense for a 72-yard rushing touchdown to give the Huskies a 49-14 lead.
“It feels great to score four touchdowns, but I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win. Whether I have to score touchdowns or make a block, I just want to keep winning,” Stubblefield said.
Pauley added his fourth touchdown on the ground in the fourth quarter and the Eagles scored two more of their own, but it wasn’t enough as the Huskies cruised to a 56-27 victory.
Stubblefield and Pauley finished the game with 208 and 68 rushing yards, respectively, and scored four rushing touchdowns apiece.
“We ran the ball great tonight. They threw a bunch of different stuff at us and our O-line adjusted and communicated very well. They were creating some big holes that helped Grant get run some big ones and me get through and get a few of my own,” Pauley said.
Rider agreed with Pauley, saying the offensive line deserved a major part of the recognition for the running game’s success.
“The offensive line paved the way upfront. The hole for Grant on those two long touchdown runs couldn’t have been any wider. Gabe Peterson, Aiden Behymer and Joel Deppe were creating those wide holes and Christian [Repass] and Easton [Wasinger] were doing a great job getting up to the second level and making big blocks,” Rider said.
With the win, the Huskies advance to the 6A Substate Championship, Friday, Nov. 19, where they will play host to Blue Valley West, who they beat earlier this year, 21-0.
“We’re going to enjoy this one tonight. We’ve got a tough West team again who can’t be overlooked. They’re getting better and it’s going to be a fun one,” Rider said.
Huskies win first regional championship in 12 years, defeating Olathe South, 68-31
After a close first half, the Huskies shut down South’s defense and scored 33 points in the third quarter.
The Huskies were victorious in tonight’s regional championship game. Five different offensive players scored touchdowns for Northwest. On the defensive side, the Huskies held the Falcon’s scoreless for the entire third quarter, intercepted a pass for a touchback and recovered a fumble.
Senior captain and quarterback Mikey Pauley said the team focused on not underestimating Olathe South and playing tough. Pauley added the offensive strategy was to run the ball.
This strategy was apparent when junior running back Grant Stubblefield ran in the ball for a touchdown with 5:32 remaining in the first quarter. Stubblefield would go on to score four touchdowns for the Huskies. He credited the offensive line for his success.
“My O-line played really well tonight; they made holes easy for me to read,” Stubblefield said. “It is pretty easy [to score] when they are blocking everybody downfield for you.”
The Falcons answered quickly with a touchdown of their own with 3:25 remaining in the first quarter. Then, with 32 seconds left in the quarter, Pauley threw a touchdown pass to senior Nick Cusick to make the score at the end of the first quarter, 14-7.
Early in the second quarter, South scored a touchdown. The Huskies answered back with a rushing touchdown from Pauley.
The back-and-forth continued as South scored a field goal with 4:35 left in the half. Stubblefield answered with a rushing touchdown with 1:27 remaining. The Falcons scored a touchdown right after, making the score going into halftime, 28-24.
During halftime, senior captain and safety Zach Yates said the defense rallied to shut down Olathe South’s trick plays and help secure the win.
“All they had done was throw trick plays at us,” Yates said. “We knew if we kept on doing our job, we could put this game out of reach.”
Stubblefield agreed with Yates, saying the Huskies knew they were the better team but still needed to work hard to earn the win.
“We knew we were the better team and that if we did our job and played hard, we would win the game,” Stubblefield said.
The Huskies came out of halftime ready to win. Stubblefield scored a rushing touchdown with 10:25 remaining, making the score, 35-24.
Then, senior Gavin Biancalana recovered a fumble with 10:08 left in the third quarter. The Huskies capitalized off this, with Pauley scoring a rushing touchdown with 9:27 left in the quarter.
Head coach Clint Rider said running the ball led to a lot of success for Northwest.
“The run game was working. There was no sense in putting the ball in the air when you do not have to,” Rider said.
Building on this momentum, Ridley intercepted the ball for a touchback with 6:36 remaining in the quarter. This would lead to Stubblefield scoring his final touchdown of the night with 5:48 left in the quarter. Ridley said he focused on doing his job and helping his team.
“I just did my job and encouraged my teammates,” Ridley said. “In the first half, I did not play that well, but in the second half, everyone stepped up.”
Pauley threw two touchdown passes this quarter, to seniors Max Muehlberger and Nick Cusick. At the end of the third quarter, the Huskies lead the Falcons, 61-24.
Senior Josh Cusick ran in Northwest’s last touchdown of the night with 9:29 left in the game. South scored the final touchdown of the night with 1:25 left to play. The final score had the Huskies on top, 68-24. With the win, the Huskies secured the regional championship. Yates said winning tonight’s game was the first step the team needed to take to achieve their ultimate goal.
“It has been 12 years since we won an actual trophy at Northwest, so it is a stepping stone,” Yates said. “We are two out of five right now; we have three more [games] left. The third one is our last goal.”
Northwest will play Olathe North next Friday at the DAC.
Northwest defeats JC Harmon, 62-0, in first round of playoffs
The varsity football team defeated the JC Harmon Hawks, 62-0, in their first-round playoff game, Oct. 29. With the win, the Huskies advanced to take on Olathe South for the regional championship.
After finishing the regular season with a 21-0 victory over Blue Valley West, the Huskies clinched first place in the Eastern Kansas League and the number one seed in the KSHSAA 6A East playoff bracket. The Huskies took on the 16-seed, winless JC Harmon Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.
Northwest came out executing well on both sides of the ball as they built a 35-0 lead by the end of the first quarter.
On the third drive of the game, junior Grant Stubblefield surpassed 1,000 rushing yards on the season with a 23-yard rush. Stubblefield said the milestone had been a goal of his for a long time.
“It’s always been a goal of mine and it was really cool to make it happen. We can celebrate tonight, but then we’ve got to re-focus and get ready for a playoff push,” Stubblefield said.
The Huskies would score three more touchdowns in the second quarter and a fourth shortly after halftime to give them a 62-0 lead, which would be the final score of the game.
Head coach Clint Rider said he was thankful for the Hawks coming out to play and was impressed with their grit.
“We’re thankful that Harmon came over to play. Their kids showed grit by coming out. They could’ve just hung it up, so we’re thankful that those guys gutted it out tonight and gave us an opportunity to play and keep a normal schedule,” Rider said.
Apart from a few varsity starters who were given the week to rest, Rider said all players on varsity and JV and a select number of freshmen were able to get playing time.
“It was good for some of our senior guys who have been a part of the program for a long time to get in and get some playing time and even some of the younger kids and freshmen that got pulled up tonight. Everybody got in the game and got some Friday night experience under the lights. It’s a big difference from a Monday so it’s good for them,” Rider said.
Senior wide receiver Chris Scheibel was one non-starter who was able to get a good amount of playing time. Scheibel, who had a 33-yard reception over a Hawks’ defender, said it was a great feeling to play in a playoff game.
“It was awesome. We worked hard all off-season and to see it pay off there was great,” Scheibel said.
Stubblefield said it was great to see underclassmen running backs get in the game and find the endzone.
“It was really cool, especially seeing the guys in my unit score. I know it was very special for them because I know how I felt when I got carries as a freshman,” Stubblefield said.
The Huskies advanced in the playoffs and will face off against Olathe South next Friday. Rider said in the playoffs, no team can be overlooked so the team will have to work hard to prepare this week.
“They beat a really good team in Blue Valley North. It’s one-and-done in the playoffs so you don’t have the luxury of overlooking anybody,” Rider said. “They have a really shifty quarterback and defensively they fly to the football and have some real standout guys on that side. It’s going to be a challenge and we need to keep in mind that seedings don’t matter.”
Stubblefield said the Huskies will have to practice harder this week as they prepare to go out and compete for a regional championship.
“We have to practice a little bit harder than we have before because we didn’t play as much this week. We’re going to watch a lot of film and get locked-in to win a regional title,” Stubblefield said.
BVNW defeats BVW and wins EKL championship on senior night
The varsity football team beat the Blue Valley West Jaguars, 21-0, Oct. 22. With the win, the Huskies secured the 2021 Eastern Kansas League Championship.
After last week’s loss to St. Thomas Aquinas, senior quarterback Mikey Pauley said the team put in hard work all week to prepare for the game against Blue Valley West.
“We had a great week of practice, everyone’s been locked in all week, physical at practice, and just focused on our opponents and didn’t take them lightly,” Pauley said.
Pauley scored the first touchdown of the night with 3:03 remaining in the first quarter. By the end of the first half, the score would not change, with the Huskies leading the Jaguars, 7-0.
Head coach Clint Rider said West did a good job in the second quarter stopping Northwest’s offense, but coming out of halftime, the Huskies were able to gain some momentum.
“[After the second quarter] we capitalized on a couple drives, where in the second quarter we kind of had been backed up a little bit. It made it kind of tough with the things [Blue Valley West] was doing,” Rider said.
It was not until there was 5:50 left in the third quarter, when Pauley scored his second rushing touchdown, making the score, 14-0.
Shortly after, senior Gavin Biancalana intercepted a pass and the Huskies took possession of the ball.
Then, with 56 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Pauley scored another touchdown, making it his third rushing touchdown of the night. BVNW was now leading BVW, 21-0. This would be the final score of the game.
Pauley said scoring his three touchdowns on his senior night made each one even more special.
“It’s probably the best moment I’ve had playing as a Northwest football player. Just getting our win on senior night, the last regular season game and it was [to win the] EKL. And also keeping the number one seed going into the playoffs, it was huge,” Pauley said.
The team’s win led to them winning the EKL Championship. The Northwest football team had not won EKL for 16 years. Senior linebacker Drew Ranallo said it was a big victory for the team.
“It is unreal. We haven’t done it since 2005. It’s been building for the last four years, everybody has worked so hard for it so I’m glad we got it,” Ranallo said.
Rider said he was very proud of the team and winning the game was an awesome feeling.
“It’s just an amazing accomplishment for our players and I’m just super happy,” Rider said.
For the first time this season, the Huskies recorded a shutout. Rider credited defensive coordinator Kollin Ahern for his ability to fire up and prepare the defense.
“[Coach Ahern] did a really good job getting his guys going. They flew to the ball and that’s an incredible thing to hold that quality of a team to no points,” Rider said.
Ranallo, who contributed two sacks and seven tackles on defense, said he really wanted this win. He said the entire team played great and deserved the win.
“Our defense played phenomenal, our offense stepped it up in the 2nd half, and I love those boys for it. It was the greatest feeling in the world,” Ranallo said. “We put a great week of practice together and I think we were just ready. We came out, we were hungry and we wanted it more.”
Moving into the postseason, Pauley said he plans to work hard to get ready for any opponent the team faces.
“We’re not going to take any opponent lightly. We’re going to focus week by week and get ready to play every week no matter the opponent,” Pauley said.
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