Free State wins battle for Lawrence
By Adam Sullivan PrepsKC Columnist
It was an unusually early season meeting between Lawrence and Lawrence Free State in the annual “City Showdown.” The Firebirds defense which has carried Free State thus far in the year stepped up once again as they defeated Lawrence 31-12.
The night started out with the Lawrence school district superintendent making a statement of unity after Lawrence High’s football field was vandalized earlier in the week. Students were encouraged to wear purple as a sign of racial equality. It was a unique moment for all in attendance as the superintendent received a standing ovation after his comments. The unity ended however once Lawrence kicked off as Free State would dominate the rivalry led by their stout defense.
“Our defense played well tonight and really stepped up as a unit,” said Free State coach Bob Lisher. “Lawrence is a great program and we needed to play well to get the victory.”
The Firebirds set the tone early giving up just one-yard in Lawrence’s first offensive possession of the night and forced a three and out on their next possession setting Free State up with great field position after a Lion punt.
Free State’s offense followed the momentum set by the defense and with 34 seconds left in the first quarter Bryce Torneden found Joel Spain on a perfectly thrown ball in the corner of the end zone giving Free State a 7-0 lead.
Lawrence again couldn’t get any momentum on offense and was forced to punt which Free State turned into a 23-yard field goal from Daniel Clark giving the Firebirds a 10-0 lead heading into the half while holding Lawrence to just three first downs.
The Lions would start the second half with a bang on the second play of the half JD Woods bursted through a hole on the right side sprinting 71-yards for a Lion touchdown making the score 10-6 with 11:05 left in the third quarter.
“We did a good job most of the night but really need to limit the big play,” said Lisher.
Lawrence would then force a Free State three and out but a muffed punt would give the Firebirds the ball back deep in Lawrence territory. Joe Lane would make the Lions pay for the mistake as he took a carry three yards for the score pushing the Firebird lead to 17-6 with 6:51 left in the third.
Free State’s defense would force another three and out from Lawrence giving the Firebirds the ball and complete control of the game. Khaury El-Amin would rack up 42 yards on the Firebird drive eventually leading to a 11-yard touchdown run from Torneden putting Free State ahead 24-6.
The Firebirds would add one more touchdown early in the fourth quarter as El-Amin broke free for a 42-yard touchdown run as Free State was in cruise control up 31-6.
Lawrence’s Trey Moore provided a positive ending at least for the Lions as with 9:01 left in the game he busted free for a 53-yard run for the final score of the night.
With the win Free State not only earns bragging right in the city, but they improve to (2-1) on the season and will face Leavenworth (1-2) at home next week.
For the Lions they’ll drop to (1-2) in a disappointing start to the season. Lawrence will host SM Northwest (1-2) next week.
Lawrence Free State Firebirds
St. James Academy Thunder
Shawnee Mission North Indians
Kansas City Central Blue Eagles
Liberty North Eagles
Anderson County Bulldogs