Free State flies past Shawnee Mission West
By David Svoboda PrepsKC staff writer
Senior quarterback Kyle McFarland accounted for 312 yards of total offense in leading Lawrence Free State to an impressive 28-14 victory over Shawnee Mission West Friday night.
The 6-foot-3 signal caller was 9-of-21 through the air for 161 yards and a score, and had 20 carries for 151 additional yards in helping the Firebirds move to 2-0 on the young season. West fell to 1-1, despite the efforts of senior tailback Brett Sterbach, who had 139 yards on 24 carries of his own.
McFarland kick started the Firebird offense early on with a pair of downfield strikes – a 37-yarder to Kieth Loneker and an acrobatic 43-yard TD toss to a juggling Zach Bickling. Just 28 seconds into the game, it was 7-0 Free State.
“Kieth made a great grab,” McFarland said of the first of his two throws, which seemed to catch West’s defense expecting the run. “The next play, I see our tight end (Bickling) get behind them, and he makes another great catch and that sets the momentum.”
Free State Coach Bob Lisher agreed with his QB.
“Our guys made some big plays early,” he said. “And it was our plan to throw it a lot on first down. But that was our plan a week ago before the weather hit, and I saw a few passes go end over end so we decided not to throw it anymore.”
In this week’s contest, after the teams traded possessions, West got it tied at 7-7 as a four-play, 59-yard drive was capped by a 52-yard bomb from AJ Verdini to Andre Maloney just under a minute into the second quarter.
Free State answered the West drive with one of its own, quickly regaining the lead.
A 5-yard scamper by TJ Cobbs put the lid on a 12-play, 71-yard drive that gobbled up nearly five minutes of the period.
“We just drove the ball down, four or five yards every play, and that’s what we needed,” McFarland said in summarizing the march that ended with Cobbs in the end zone. “Our line was outstanding tonight.”
It was the final Firebird score of the half that may have been the biggest, however.
After West was penalized with just 6.1 seconds left, the Vikings were forced to punt. The low line drive was fielded by Free State’s Tye Hughes on the run at his own 38, and after a fake handoff lured West into thinking the play was a reverse, Hughes took off to the end zone and a 21-7 Firebird lead as the clock registered 0:00.
“That’s a huge momentum shift,” Lister said of the return that put his team up by 14.
Give West credit, however, as the resilient Vikings went on a 9-play, 80-yard march coming out of the half to cut the deficit to 21-14 with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter. Sterbach’s two-yard run ended the drive.
Cobbs got his second TD of the night to round out the scoring. His six-yard run completed a seven-play, 55-yard march that extended the Free State lead to 28-14 with 10:14 left in the game. Cobbs ended the contest with 64 yards on 15 carries.
West sputtered on its next drive, and Free State took over with 7:28 left and a chance to ice the game. It did just that, even though it was unable to score.
The Firebirds ran 11 plays, but more-importantly ran 4:40 off the clock to put it away. Four unsuccessful West plays followed, and it was over.
“They did what they had to when it was time to win or lose – one or the other,” Lister said of his team’s 11-play, clock-eating clincher. “Our guys up front, it was in their hands. They did a nice job of maintaining their blocks and moving the line of scrimmage a little bit.”
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