Free State holds off LHS in City Showdown

photo by: Nick Krug

Free State quarterback Malik Berry gives receiver Keenan Garber a pat on the head after the two connected for a touchdown during the second quarter on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 at Free State High School.

Regardless of the records, the City Showdown has a tendency to live up to the billing.

Free State, which is ranked No. 2 in Class 6A, has eased past most of its competition for much of the season. Lawrence, a team starting nine sophomores, had lost all but one game entering the season finale.

Yet the Firebirds needed to make adjustments in the second half to preserve a 28-13 victory over their crosstown foe at FSHS Friday.

“We came out and had to make stuff happen in the second half,” FSHS coach Bob Lisher said. “Lawrence High came out with great passion and played hard. We managed to win the game because we had a little more talent, not because we played more disciplined.”

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence High running back Austin Hollins is snagged by Free State linebacker Jax Dineen during the first quarter on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 at Free State High School.

With the win, FSHS (8-0, 7-0 Sunflower League) finished off another perfect regular season to capture a Sunflower League title and clinched the No. 2 seed in the 6A West bracket. FSHS will play host to Wichita North in the opening round of the postseason.

Meanwhile, LHS (1-7, 1-7) ended up being the No. 16 seed and managed to draw a meeting with No. 1 Derby in the first round of the postseason.

But the outcome could have been much different, had it not been for the performance of FSHS senior Jaxson Webb, who is the team’s backup quarterback.

Webb was forced into action after junior Malik Berry, the team’s starting quarterback, sustained a left ankle injury on the team’s first possession of the second half. On the following drive, Webb marched Free State down the field in methodical fashion, mixing in runs between seniors Jax Dineen and Keenan Garber along with himself.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Webb scored a decisive touchdown on a 12-yard run to give Free State a 21-6 advantage.

“Seeing the play develop, I didn’t think anything was going to happen in the beginning,” Webb said. “I was just trying to get outside and get away from their good defensive line. It was really great to punch it in, because I felt like that slowed their momentum down.”

photo by: Nick Krug

Free State receiver Jaxson Webb looks to break through against Lawrence High during the third quarter on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 at Free State High School.

Two plays later, Berry returned and notched an interception off Lawrence sophomore quarterback Tre’ Jackson. The Firebirds put the game away on the ensuing drive, as Berry connected with Webb for an 8-yard touchdown pass.

But Webb’s seamless transition between receiver and quarterback was no surprise to any of his teammates.

“Jaxson is an athlete,” Berry said. “He can do anything on the field, anything in any sport really. It feels good to have a player like that.”

However, the Lions put up a resilient fight in the battle for city football supremacy, particularly in the first half.

Jackson gifted LHS an early lead with a 2-yard touchdown run in the opening quarter. It marked the second time all season that Free State had faced a deficit. The Firebirds eventually claimed the lead on a 48-yard interception return by Garber, who also netted a 30-yard touchdown catch from Berry in the second quarter.

Lawrence’s defense, though, put together an impressive performance to hold Free State to a season-low 28 points. The senior defensive line of Eric Galbreath Jr., E.J. Jewsome and Sam Bart held the opposing run game in check for much of the night. Senior linebacker Caleb Mondi notched the team’s lone takeaway on a fumble.

“When we play together, I have all the confidence in the world in us,” Mondi said. “We are something special when we play together.”

For the Lions, Jackson led the way on the offensive end in his first City Showdown. Jackson completed 11 of 21 passes for 187 yards. Junior receiver Chris McGee caught six passes for 145 yards. Junior running back Austin Hollins tallied 40 rushing yards on 18 carries.

“Kids played their hearts out on both sides of the ball,” LHS head coach Steve Rampy said. “I thought that was the best four quarters we have played against any team. Our kids believe they can play with them.”

Dineen finished with 108 rushing yards on 18 carries behind a new offensive line. Because junior left tackle Turner Corcoran was sidelined with an injury, Frankie Calderon, Shane Skwarlo, Kyle Flachsbarth, Zach Rasys and Ryan Lutz paved the way up front.

“We are going to have to play a lot better on defense and a lot better on offense for us to have the type of season we want to have,” Lisher said. “Right now, we are not clicking and we have to figure out why.”

FREE STATE 28, LAWRENCE HIGH 13

LHS | FS

First downs 13 | 13

Rushes-yards 37-96 | 40-225

Passing yards 196 | 95

Total offense 292 | 320

Fumbles-lost 0-0 | 1-1

Interceptions 3 | 0

Penalties-yards 6-45 | 7-50

Score by quarters

Lawrence 6 0 0 7 — 13

Free State 7 7 0 14 — 28

Individual statistics

Rushing

LHS: Tre’ Jackson 19-56, Austin Hollins 18-40

FSHS: Jax Dineen 18-108, Malik Berry 11-40, Keenan Garber 3-11, Tyler Bowden 1-14, Jaxson Webb 6-35, LJ Mack 1-17

Passing

LHS: Tre’ Jackson 11-21-187

FS: Malik Berry 5-14-78; Jaxson Webb 2-3-17

Receiving

LHS: Chris McGee 6-145, Bryson Cummins 2-20, Garrett Romero 3-31, Austin Hollins 1-0

FS: Keenan Garber 3-54, LJ Mack 1-5, Jaxson Webb 2-24, Payton Sparks 1-12

HOW THEY SCORED

First quarter

8:00 — Tre’ Jackson 2 run. Conversion failed. (LHS 6, FS 0)

5:31 — Keenan Garber 48 interception return. Joey Wood kick good. (FS 7, LHS 6)

Second quarter

9:25 — Garber 30 pass from Malik Berry. Wood kick good. (FS 14, LHS 6)

Fourth quarter

11:56 — Jaxson Webb 12 run. Wood kick good. (FS 21, LHS 6)

7:59 — Webb 8 pass from Berry. Wood kick good. (FS 28, LHS 6)

1:11 — Hollins 2 run. Brungardt kick good. (FS 28, LHS 13)

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