Free State edges Shawnee Mission West

By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: September 5, 2014 - 10:53 PM


OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — The stadium announcer was mispronouncing Lawrence Free State’s quarterback all night long.

Something tells me that’s the last time that will happen.

Bryce Torneden introduced himself to the Sunflower League Thursday night in the Firebirds 20-14 win over Shawnee Mission West at SM South District Stadium in the season opener for both teams.

Torneden, a junior two-way starter for the Firebirds, led Free State with 144 yards on 25 carries and accounted for all three Firebird scores — rushing for two touchdowns and throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Joel Spain with 4:45 to play.

What everyone in attendance saw Thursday night is something that Free State coach Bob Lisher and the Firebirds have been seeing throughout the preseason.

“We have been seeing it in practice,” Lisher said. “He makes some plays that just make you shake your head. He’s legit.”

Yep, that about sums it up.

With the Firebirds up 14-7 early in the fourth quarter and driving deep into the Vikings end of the field, Torneden had to come out because of cramps. The drive stalled at the Viking 5-yard line.

It’s probably no coincidence that Torneden still on the sideline when the defense took the field and West went 95 yards in five plays to tie the game.

It may just be the first game of the year, but as Torneden goes, so too could the Free State Firebirds.

He was back on the field after the ensuing kickoff and led his team on a seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive that ended with Torneden hitting Spain on a 19-yard scoring strike down the middle of the Vikings defense.

“When the safety went one way, I saw Joel and just tried to get it over the linebacker,” Torneden said. “I was afraid I got too much in it, but Joel made a great catch.”

The Firebirds left some points on the field on Thursday. Quite a few points, really.

“We left four touchdowns out there and to do that against an excellent team like that on the road and still come out with a win is impressive,” Lisher said.

Two opportunities stood out like sore thumbs as the Firebirds turned the ball over on downs inside the 5-yard line twice — once I the first half and once in the second.

Despite the offensive advantage the Firebirds had, the Vikings were never completely out of it until Shane Hofer sacked Jonathan Shull at his own 20 as time expired.

“You know that was a good sign to be able to stay close like that,” said West head coach Tim Callaghan. “It shows a lot of maturity for such an inexperienced team.

“Last year, we let the game (against Free State) get away from us and we were down 28-7 at the half.”

The Firebirds outgained the Vikings 397-245, including an advantage of 262-190 on the ground. That may not seem like that big of a difference, but 81 yards for the Vikings came on two rushes.

The first a 41-yarder by Tarik Watson to set up Asher Goldston’s 40-yard touchdown run that tied the game with 1:35 to play in the third quarter.

Torneden had a pair of 11-yard touchdown runs — one late in the first quarter and another midway through the second quarter.

Sandwiched in between those scoring runs was an Adam Rellihan to Asher Goldston 12-yard scoring pass to get the Vikings on the board.