Anyone with a 7:30 p.m. dinner date Friday night could have stayed at Free State High for 20 minutes, seen all he needed to see of the football game and still made it to the table in time for the first course.
Four Free State touchdowns in the first four minutes of Friday’s City Showdown against Lawrence High led the Firebirds to their fourth straight victory in the crosstown rivalry, a 42-14 rout of the winless Lions.
“We felt like it was really big to come out on top, stay on top and keep our foot on the throat,” said Free State senior quarterback Camren Torneden. “We did that. We executed.”
Executed is putting it mildly. During the first-quarter blitz, Free State did whatever it wanted on offense and tried to match that with its defense.
On the first play of the game, Torneden raced 71 yards for a touchdown. One play, 13 seconds, seven points.
On their first defensive stand of the night, the Firebirds forced a Lawrence High fumble on the second play from scrimmage and jumped ahead 14-zip when linebacker Matt Cole scooped up the loose pigskin and rumbled 35 yards for a touchdown.
Lawrence High coughed up the ball yet again on the first play of its next drive, and Free State turned that into a 21-0 advantage when senior tailback Kirk Resseguie scored from a yard out.
The fatal blow of the first quarter came when junior Preston Schenck intercepted the Lions’ first pass of the night on drive No. 3 and returned it to the LHS 27-yard line.
On the next series, the Firebirds scored again in just one play, as Torneden rumbled in from 27 yards out without being touched.
“Any time you score on the first play of a series, that’s one of the best feelings you can have,” senior offensive lineman Spencer Chestnut said.
After the game, Torneden — who finished the night with 256 yards of total offense and four TDs — was sure to give credit to the big boys up front for keeping his jersey clean.
“The line was nice tonight,” Torneden said. “The linemen did their jobs. I was running through Mack truck holes out there.”
It was evident early on that the opening flurry completely took the Lions out of the game. Although LHS stormed the field with a great deal of energy, the Lions’ sideline quickly resembled the drive home from an amusement park after a day of sugary snacks and long lines. In a word, everyone crashed.
“I think they were shell-shocked,” Free State senior Chandler Schmidt said. “We scored 28 points in the first quarter, and when they came back out they just had that look in their eyes of, ‘What are we doing here? What’s going on?’”
The Lions (0-8) quickly settled in and actually played the Firebirds even the rest of the way.
LHS matched Free State’s next two scores of the first half — Torneden hit Keene Niemack with a 65-yard TD pass and added a 52-yard TD run — with a pair of Tyrae Jenkins one-yard TD runs.
“To come out, get the three turnovers and get the short field, that’s going to be pretty tough on anybody,” Lisher said. “You look at the scoreboard, and if we don’t get those three turnovers it could have been a very different football game. But our guys got ’em, and we took advantage of it.”
The second half was one of the shortest halves of high school football on record. It began a little after 8:30 and ended at 9:01.
Part of that was because both teams preferred to keep the ball on the ground. Part of it was because the Firebirds clearly made a point to call off the dogs.
“We just wanted to come out and be fundamentally sound the second half,” Lisher said. “We just wanted to play it each and every play. We weren’t so much concerned about scoring or not scoring.”
The Firebirds (6-2) have outscored their last two opponents, 97-14. More important than that margin, though, was the fact that the 83-point spread led to back-to-back district victories and helped the Firebirds clinch a playoff berth.
“That was more important than anything else,” Lisher said. “We wanted to win this game because it was our second district game, and we wanted to get back to the playoffs.”