Free State hits the same road block

By Sean Kosednar PrepsKC Staff Writer
Posted: November 11, 2017 - 1:19 AM

It was almost like a video game when both players choose the same team on Friday November 10. Lawrence Free State was clad in all green with white numbers and Derby wore all white with green numbers. There was a number 5 under center for both teams. And just like all games between evenly matched teams - regulation wasn’t enough. Derby advanced to the 6A State semifinal altering beating Free State 55-49 in overtime.

“They are [a mirror image of us],” Derby head coach Brandon Clark said. “They are a run first offense. They threw the ball well. We weren’t expecting that. It was run, run run then set up to pass the ball.”

Free State head coach Bob Lisher agrees.

“Oh, absolutely,” Lisher said. “Offensively we did pretty well. If you would have told me this morning that we would score 49 points I would have liked our chances. Derby, they made some plays tonight. Got to give them credit.”

The game didn’t start out like one with over 100 combined points. Both teams punted on their opening possessions. Then Free State would score back to back touchdowns. One after forcing a fumble inside their own 10-yard line. That wouldn’t be the last red zone turnover of the game. On the first play after the fumble senior running back Jax Dineen broke off a 65-yard run. It would prove costly for the Firebirds. Dineen would be forced from the game with a leg injury.

“It wasn’t only Jax,” Lisher said. “We had a lot of guys get banged up tonight. We were down to our fourth running back. Luckily, he is a good little freshman. He made some plays for us. We had a lot of guys sitting out late and that hurt us.”

Getting down 14-0 didn’t seem to faze Derby. Sophomore running back Tre Washington took the ensuing kickoff down to the 8-yard-line. On the first play Hunter Igo kept the ball and ran straight up the middle for his first touchdown of the game.

Igo scored again to tie the game after Derby forced a quick three and out. Not only did Igo score but he also converted 2 fourth downs on the drive.

Not to be outdone Gage Foster answered right back with an amazing 25-yard touchdown run of his own on the very next possession.

Each team would add another touchdown with under a minute to go in the first half. Free State looked like they would take a seven-point lead after their touchdown with 37 seconds left. Then their squib kick back fired, and Derby drove 50 yards in 30 seconds and tied the game with only six seconds left.

Derby got the ball to start the second half and Igo scored another short touchdown to open the half.

Free State would be playing catchup the rest of the game. Foster connected on a 53-yard bomb to Jake Rittman.

There were many times it looked like the Firebirds’ defense would get them off the field.

“Their offensive line, running back and quarterback are pretty good,” Lisher said. “We haven’t had the problem all year long, but we had a problem stopping them tonight.”

With eight minutes left Derby was facing a fourth and goal from the 19. The Panthers dialed up a double pass. Igo passed the ball to the wide receiver along the left boundary. He then found Keenan Garber on a slant out of the back field for a diving grab in the end zone.

“I don’t think we even ran a reverse this year,” Clark said. “We put in 10 trick plays this week and we ran eight of them. Thank goodness we did.”

With the game tied at 49, it looked like Free State was setting up to advance in the playoffs when disaster struck. The Firebirds had the ball in the middle of the field on the 12-yard-line with the clock ticking down. Foster ran the ball to the middle to set up the game winning field goal. Derby forced a fumble and recovered with 26 seconds left.

A missed field goal sent the game to overtime. In a game with few stops Derby’s defense came up big. They kept Free State out of the end zone on four plays. It only took one for them to punch in the game winning touchdown.