Deep down, Free State High football coach Bob Lisher knew the odds were against his squad.
The Firebirds, who lost their first six games before beating Topeka on Oct. 12, were not expected to beat Lawrence High on Friday night before an estimated 9,500 fans at Kansas University's Memorial Stadium. And certainly Free State was not counting on a shutout after surrendering an average of 29.8 points through the first seven games.
Free State, though, compiled 311 yards offense and limited LHS to 197 yards while posting a 16-0 victory for the first shutout in the program's five-year history. The Firebirds are now on the brink of their second state playoff appearance in three years.
"When you come out and perform like this, when you're underdogs and play hard for 48 minutes and produce a victory, this is why you're in it, and this is why you coach," Lisher said.
Free State (2-6 overall, 2-0 district) will close the regular season Friday against Leavenworth (1-7, 1-1) at Haskell Stadium. Leavenworth edged Topeka, 19-16, on Friday for its first victory and kept its slim playoff hopes alive.
Free State will advance to the playoffs with a win on Friday and could move on with a loss. Leavenworth's lone playoff possibility is a victory over FSHS and a Lawrence High loss to Topeka (1-7, 0-2).
The Lions (4-4, 1-1) and Topeka have no chance of advancing.
Against Lawrence, Free State tailbacks Damienn Patton and David Allen accounted for 152 rushing yards. The rest of the Firebirds produced minus-five yards.
Patton, a 5-foot-7, 155-pound senior, rushed 17 times for 72 yards, including a three-yard touchdown run. He also had two two-point conversion runs before being pulled midway through the third quarter following a bout of asthma.
Allen, a 5-10, 180-pound junior, took over for Patton and finished with 25 carries for 80 yards. Of Free State's final 21 plays, 18 were runs by Allen.
"I thought the offensive line did an outstanding job," Lisher said. "We had to do some things right up front to get the plays off that we were getting off. We weren't doing anything fancy. We were just trying to move the football."
FSHS junior David Allen, a 5-10, 180-pounder, took over at tailback in the second half and had 25 carries for a game-high 80 yards.
Firebird junior quarterback Matt Berner completed eight of 14 passes for 164 yards, including a nine -yard TD pass to Andron Cruse early in the second quarter.
Douglas continues to shine
Free State High senior Walker Douglas, the Sunflower League's top punter, continues to excel. Douglas averaged 39.4 yards on five punts, including a 64-yarder against LHS.
LHS will miss the state playoffs for the third time in five years and Free State has denied the Lions two of those times. The Lions are 58-3 all-time in district since the current format began in 1981. The Lions will end their season against Topeka High on Friday at Moore Bowl. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
"It's pretty frustrating," Wedd said of missing the playoffs. "You have to compliment Free State. They were the better team and they played harder than we did and that makes it more frustrating
"In big games, it's so important to make plays. You have to make plays. Whether it's making the tackle , the throw or catch, you have to make the play and we didn't do that. They were well coached and well prepared."
LHS misses opportunities
On Free State's first three possessions, LHS had the Firebirds pinned inside the 15-yard line the 2, 6 and 12. The Lions, through, were unable to capitalize.
"We had three opportunities and we didn't get a point," Wedd said. "You knew that was going to come back and haunt us."
None of the four eastern Class 6A regionals have been decided. The winner of Friday's Olathe South-Olathe North game will advance and be the top seed among the four eastern teams in the first round of regional next week. The winner of Friday's Blue Valley Northwest-Blue Valley North game will advance and be the No. 2 seed. Shawnee Mission East, Blue Valley and SM South are still in contention to win District 1. The team that emerges from District 1 likely will be the No. 3 seed. Either Free State or Leavenworth likely will be the No. 4 seed and have to play next Friday at Olathe District Activities Center against O-North or O-South. Free State could be a No. 3 seed if the District 1 winner emerges with a district loss and the Firebirds beat Leavenworth.