Roaring to a big win

Lori Houk/Special to PrepsKC

By Mike Lavieri PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 18, 2015 - 10:38 PM

Lawrence’s 14-12 victory at crosstown rival Free State was so important that the Lions’ student section rushed the field.

Friday night was the first win for the Lions (3-0) in the City Showdown since 2011 and only the second in nine years.

“It was a great high school football game, that’s the way it should be on Friday night,” Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd said. “A lot of rivalry. They’re all friends, they grew up together. They punched it out, one punch after another. We had one more punch in us.”

On third and 12, the Lions lined up with trips right. Quarterback Alan Clothier dropped back and found his tight end Price Morgan on the left side for 15 yards.

It seemed as if that would seal the game as the clock kept ticking down. Running back JD Woods ripped a 34-yard run two plays later to put the Lions inside the Firebirds 10 yard line, but on first and goal, Clothier couldn’t handle a snap from the shotgun and Free State’s Drew Tochtrop pounced on the ball.

“I had good feeling until we fumbled the ball on the six,” Wedd said. “All we had to do is run the clock out and finish the game off.”

After Woods’ run, the Free State coaching booth started to pack up their headsets, but the fumble gave them new life with 2:10 remaining and 91 yards to go.

Free State’s Bob Lisher thought the Firebirds ran the two-minute drill well, despite a few drops.

On the ninth play of the drive — a first and 10 — Free State quarterback Bryce Torneden dropped back to pass and targeted Zack Sanders.

Sanders had beaten his man, who had jumped too early. All Sanders had to do was catch the ball and turn around to see an open field.

But he dropped the ball.

Free State was able to move the chains for a first down, thanks to a Lions defensive holding, but the Firebirds were called for a hold themselves on second down and were backed up to their 48.

Torneden unleashed a deep pass down the middle to Logan McKinney for 31 yards.

Two plays later, Torneden went to the front corner of the end zone for Sanders.

He dropped it again.

“It’s easy to get down on somebody, but he made a lot of plays during the game, offensively and defensively,” Lisher said. “It wasn’t like he was wide open, there was coverage there.

“We grow from it, we move on. As far as the overall effort from our football team, we’re much improved.”

The Firebirds had two more plays to try and score, but on fourth down, a ball was batted away sealing the Lions’ victory.

Free State scored the first points of the game on a 31-yard run by Sam Skwarlo with 4:02 left in the first quarter. The extra point was missed.

That was the first deficit for Lawrence all season long, and the first points the Lions had given up in the first half.

Woods got the Lions on the board late in the second quarter with a one-yard run, giving LHS a one-point edge heading into the half.

The Lions were given a short field to work with after a long snap went over the head of Tochtrop on fourth down.

Lisher said this was the first time in three games the Firebirds didn’t beat themselves.

“They were kicking our butt in the first half,” Wedd said. “We were lucky to be up by one.”

He found pay dirt again early in the fourth quarter on a five-yard run to give Lions a 14-6 lead.

But Free State wouldn’t go away scoring on its next drive. It went for two, but Torneden’s pass fell incomplete.

Lawrence’s next drive ended with the botched snap setting up the drama.

“It’s huge,” Lions’ lineman Amani Bledsoe said of the victory. “There’s so much meaning to us, especially at this time of the year. Just keeps us going for the rest of the schedule.”