City Showdown a family, friendly affair

Free State senior quarterback Gage Foster looks downfield on a passing attempt against Olathe Northwest on Thursday at College Boulevard Activity Center.

They ate dinner together on Sunday, and just five days later, they will be standing on opposite sides of the field.

Watching film of Free State’s football team this week, Lawrence High junior linebacker Caleb Mondi said it was a little weird watching tape of the opposing quarterback. They grew up together, spending weeks together in the summer.

Only a few days following a family dinner, Mondi, along with his freshman brother, Cole, will try to find a way to stop their cousin, Gage Foster. The City Showdown will kick off at 7 tonight at LHS.

“He’s really been the closest cousin we have on that side of the family,” Caleb Mondi said. “We’d always hang out at family reunions and everything.”

The Mondi brothers, who start next to each other at linebacker, and Foster are second cousins, but have always remained close because of their ages.

Foster, a senior who plays quarterback and outside linebacker, grew up in Coffeyville. His grandfather, Dick, and father, Skip, both coached Coffeyville Community College’s football team to national titles. During childhood summers, he’d host Caleb Mondi for a week or two. Other times, he’d visit in Lawrence before he moved into town in the seventh grade.

In last year’s City Showdown, a 56-7 Free State victory, Foster remembers Mondi, who used to play receiver, trying to block him. It was their first time playing against each other.

“He tried to crack me,” Foster said. “It didn’t work. It was pretty funny.”

Lawrence High defenders Caleb Mondi (11) and Isaac Flint, right, bring down Shawnee Mission Northwest running back Jamie Alexander during the first quarter on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium.

Preparing to play Lawrence (4-3), Foster said he tried to pry scouting report information out of his cousins during their latest family gathering. It didn’t work.

When they aren’t playing each other, Mondi said he will take a peek at Free State’s box scores to stay up to date on how Foster is playing. If he misses anything, he knows his family will catch him up.

“Definitely have extra motivation,” Mondi said. “We really just want to win this game.”

As usual with the City Showdown, there’s several friendships that extend to each school.

After Lawrence’s last home game, senior quarterback Dante Jackson walked off the field and shook hands with Free State running back Jax Dineen and receiver Keenan Garber on his way back to the locker room. Along with LHS receivers Ekow Boye-Doe and Jalen Dudley, it’s a group of best friends, who try to support each other by attending as many games as they can.

It’s a friendship that goes much further than the football field, but they will train and visit colleges together.

“That’s pretty much family,” Garber said. “We hang out all of the time.”

Free State junior receiver Keenan Garber makes catches a touchdown pass on Friday against Shawnee Mission Northwest at FSHS.

Boye-Doe and Garber insisted there’s no trash talk among the group of friends heading into tonight’s game. The Firebirds (7-0, ranked No. 1 in Class 6A) could clinch at least a share of their second straight Sunflower League title with a victory and complete their first undefeated regular season since 2006.

With most of the group lined up at receiver or defensive back, they said they are preparing just like any other game. But they chuckled when asked what it would be like to match up against each other on the field.

“I don’t look forward to it, but if I have to…” Garber said, his voice trailing off. “It’s going to be fun.”

Both schools are assured of a home game during the first round of the playoffs, no matter the result of the 21st edition of the City Showdown.

But when friends and family are involved, there’s always bragging rights on the line.

“For one week, they are archrivals,” Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd said, “then after that they are best friends again.”

FSHS probable starters


LT — Turner Corcoran, so.

LG — Gabe Clark, sr.

C — Ben Holiday, jr.

RG — Shane Skwarlo, jr.

RT — Jalan Robinson, sr.

QB — Gage Foster, sr.

RB — Jax Dineen, jr.

H — L.J. Mack, jr.

WR — Keenan Garber, jr.

WR — Jake Rittman, sr.

TE — Jack Theisen, sr.

K — Kameron Lake, jr.

P — Jake Rittman, sr.


DT — Turner Corcoran, so.

NT — Nathan Spain, sr.

DT — Spencer Roe, sr.

OLB — Bo Miller, sr.

ILB — David Johnson, sr.

ILB — Jalen Nash, jr.

OLB — Gage Foster, sr.

CB — Kwinton Lassiter, sr.

CB — Gabe del Valle, sr.

S — Malik Berry, so.

S — Keenan Garber, jr.

LHS probable starters


LT — Kristian Russell, sr.

LG — Nick Englebert, sr.

C — Jacob Mills, sr.

RG — John Ely, sr.

RT — Bryce Tibke, jr.

QB — Dante Jackson, sr.

RB — Hunter Krom, sr.

WR — Ekow Boye-Doe, sr.

WR — Jalen Dudley, sr.

WR — Brett Chapple, jr.

WR — Bryson Cummins, jr.

K — Ross Brungardt, jr.

P — Dante Jackson, sr.


DE — Nick Miller, jr.

DT — Tim Vongphachanh, sr.

DT — EJ Jewsome, jr.

DE — Sam Bart, jr.

LB — Ja’Relle Dye, sr.

LB — Cole Mondi, fr.

LB — Caleb Mondi, jr.

CB — Ekow Boye-Doe, sr.

CB — DeShon Lewis, so.

SS — Kendrick Hobson, so.

FS — Harrison King, sr.