Free State tops Lawrence to clinch No. 1 seed
By Adam Sullivan PrepsKC staff writer
With all of the different playoff scenarios going around Friday night Lawrence Free State wanted to get the simplest one. The Firebirds knew if they knocked off Lawrence High they’d not only make the playoffs but they’d be guaranteed a home game as district champions. Led by a stellar defense Free State held off a tough Lawrence squad 28-10 in front of a packed Free State stadium.
“Anytime you beat those guys it’s special,” Free State head coach Bob Lisher said. “They’re a great team and well coached.”
The win wouldn’t come easy as Lawrence came out fired up and capitalized on an onside kick to start the game with a 30-yard field goal from Ellis Springe giving the Lions an early 3-0 lead.
Free State would respond as Joe Dineen completed a deep pass to Khadre Lane for an 81-yard touchdown pass putting the Firebirds ahead 7-3 with 7:18 left in the first quarter.
“I saw Khadre get a little space and tried to put it in a place where he could make a play,” said Dineen
Lawrence would answer early in the second quarter as Nyle Anderson threw a jump ball to Zay Boldridge on fourth down for a 25-yard touchdown pass giving the Lions the lead 10-7.
Free State would again respond and respond quickly as Dineen threw his second touchdown of the night, this time finding Zach Bickling from 24-yards out putting the Firebirds back in front 14-10.
The play of the night would occur late in the second quarter. Lawrence’s Drew Green fumbled a handoff Keith Loneker would scoop it up for the Firebirds and take it 51-yards the other way giving Free State a 21-10 lead at the half.
“The fumble return was a huge play,” Lisher said. “It gave us all the momentum heading into the half. Our defense played outstanding tonight.”
Coming out of the half Lawrence looked to be driving against Free State, but another costly turnover quickly shifted the momentum to the home side.
Free State would tack on a late touchdown giving the Firebirds a 28-10 victory and the 2013 district championship.
“It’s a great accomplishment for our seniors. We’re just happy we get to keep playing next week,” said Lisher
The Firebirds will host the first round of the playoffs next week. For Lawrence their season will end at 3-6 as they fell one point shy of making the playoffs. It’s the first time the Lions will miss out on postseason play since 2010.
Free State now leads the series against Lawrence 9-8. The Firebirds now host Shawnee Mission Northwest Friday in the first round of the 6A playoffs.
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