Free State takes care of SM West

By Adam Sullivan PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: September 22, 2018 - 12:58 AM

In its first three games of the 2018 season Lawrence Free State hadn’t been tested as the Firebirds outscored their opponents 144-0. Each win seemed to be a bigger blowout as the hype continued to build.

On Friday night Free State finally faced a test as the Firebirds defeated Shawnee Mission West 35-14 in front of a packed homecoming crowd.

“Our kids were on a float two hours before game time,” said Free State head coach Bob Lisher. “It’s tough to come back and get your mind right. We had to make some plays to finally get the game in control.”

Trailing 14-7 early in the third quarter, Shawnee Mission West had first and goal from the Free State eight-yard line. West quarterback CJ Callaghan took the snap, stepped right and came back to his left tossing a slant pass towards the end zone. Free State’s Jax Dineen read the play perfectly as he intercepted the pass and returned it to the Firebird 39-yard line.

“I watched film on them every day this week,” explained Dineen. “I was reading their offense right and knew what might be an option and just made a play. I had to step up and do what I needed to do for the team.”

Dineen who rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries capped off the drive with a one-yard touchdown giving Free State a 21-7 lead as the Firebirds never looked back.

“Jax means a lot to this team. His teammates can count on him and he produces,” said Lisher. “He’s a strong kid and when he’s playing at an A level it brings everybody else’s game up with him.”

LJ Mack gave the Firebirds a 28-7 lead with 11:27 remaining in the fourth quarter as Free State looked to seal the game, however West wasn’t done.

The Vikings converted on three fourth down attempts before CJ Callaghan found Wesley Clark making it a two score game at 28-14.

“It’s hard when West is taking a bunch of clock on 22 or 23 play drives,” stated Lisher. “I thought we did a much better job in the second half on both sides of the ball and played how we needed too.”

Free State would answer quickly as Dineen scored from 13-yards out to give the Firebirds a 35-14 lead.

Kansas State commit Keenan Garber opened the night with a 20-yard touchdown run as Free State quickly led 7-0. West struck in the second quarter as CJ Callaghan scored on a one-yard quarterback keeper. The Viking touchdown ended the 13 consecutive quarters that Free State had held its opponents scoreless.

Malik Berry put the Firebirds ahead for good with 9:57 to play in the first half as he scrambled to his left and raced past Viking defenders 28-yards for the score.

Free State (4-0) will host Sedalia Smith-Cotton on Friday night while SM West (0-4) will face Olathe West.