Free State takes one more step to a title
By Adam Sullivan PrepsKC staff writer
For the third time in school history Lawrence Free State is headed to the Kansas 6A Sub-State game. The Firebirds held off a tough Olathe East squad 28-17 Friday night in a Sectional match up.
“We’re excited about it (Sub-State),” Free State head coach Bob Lisher said. Our program is consistently in the playoffs, but still waiting on that first title.”
Both teams started out slow on Friday trading punts to open the game. On Free State’s second drive of the night, the Firebirds took 16 plays and nine minutes to strike first. Led by consistent runs from TJ Cobbs, and Kyle McFarland the Firebirds were able to cap the drive off with a five yard run by Joe Dineen putting Free State ahead 7-0 with 53 seconds left in the first quarter.
After Free State forced a Hawk punt, Al Smith of Olathe East would intercept McFarland. The next play Hayden Frazier would break free 17 yards for a touchdown tying things at seven a piece with 9:51 left in the half.
Olathe East would then force a punt, and five plays later the Hawks would make a 32-yard field goal by Ryan Ahlgren putting Olathe East ahead 10-7 with 3:46 left in the half. The Hawks lead wouldn’t last 20 seconds though. Free State’s Kyle McFarland somehow got an option pitch off to Joe Dineen who flew by East defenders 72 yards giving Free State the lead 14-10 with 3:28 left in the half.
“That wasn’t exactly what we drew up,” Lisher said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t recommend anyone try and use that play, but it went for a touchdown so I guess I can’t slam it too much.”
Olathe East would again give up another huge play right before the half. East quarterback John Blazevic took a QB keeper to the left side and was met by Blake Winslow of Free State who knocked the ball out, scooped it up and took it 25 yards for the touchdown giving Free State a 21-10 lead at the half.
“I saw him tuck the ball and I had enough room to get a hand on it” Winslow said. “I saw it pop out and was able to pick it up and take off.”
The second half would be a defensive battle between the two schools as they had a combined three punts, and two turnovers. Olathe East was able to close the gap to four when Blazevic took a sneak 2 yards for the touchdown making it 21-17. The touchdown followed up a TJ Cobbs fumble from Free State, which gave East great field position at the Free State 27 yard line.
East’s defense again would stop Free State, this time forcing a turnover on downs. Two plays later and Free State would answer the call on defense. As Blazevic rolled out to his right he threw a pass up for grabs and eventually Demarko Bobo from Free State came down with it.
“Demarko, Blake, Kyle, and Joe are just playmakers. Week in and week out they help us win the football game bottom line”. Lisher said of his stars.
The fumble would set up a one yard touchdown run from McFarland giving Free State the final score on the night, and the win 28-17.
Olathe East would get the ball one last time with two minutes left in the game. Fred Wyatt would lead Free State defensively on the drive recording a couple sacks and forcing a turnover on downs allowing Free State to run out the clock and seal the victory.
“It just feels great to win this game. Last year we didn’t make the playoffs and now we’re one game away from the title game,” a happy Winslow said afterwards.
Standing in the Firebirds way is a familiar face in Shawnee Mission West. The two met back in week two of the season where Free State won 28-14.
“I’m sure our game plan will be somewhat similar since it worked the first time,” Winslow said of the rematch.
Coach Lisher stated otherwise when asked how he planned on stopping Bret Sterbach
”At this point I have no idea how to stop him,” Lisher said. “He’s a heck of a player.”
Both teams will head into the Sub-State game with a 10-1 record. Shawnee Mission West who defeated Lawrence 21-14 will provide a tough challenge for Free State’s offense.
“They shut down a very good Lawrence offense twice this year,” Lisher said. “We’ll have to plan for them offensively really well because they’re such a tough team.”
This will be the second time West and Free State have met in the Sub-State game. Back in 2006 West beat Free State 31-14 to advance to the state title game where it lost to Hutchinson.
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