Football Game Tape: Week Three

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence High defensive lineman Amani Bledsoe (72) comes around to wrap up Free State quarterback Bryce Torneden (1) for a sack during the first half on Friday, Sept. 17, 2015 at Free State High School.

In a game that had more twists and turns than most roller coasters, Friday’s football City Showdown lived up to the hype, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Both schools had opportunities to win the game, but Lawrence High made some big defensive plays in the fourth quarter and held on for a 14-12 victory at FSHS, ending a three-year losing streak to Free State.

Helped by the old-school mentality of players going both ways, the Lions saw plenty of big plays made by their top players. Now on their first three-game winning streak since 2012, it’ll be interesting to see how the Lions use this momentum for the next few weeks.

The Firebirds dropped to 0-3, opening the season with three straight losses for the first time since 2004. That’s the result of a few mistakes that cost them some victories and one of the toughest schedules in the state. Free State’s opponents have a combined 11-1 record this season.

Free State needed a couple of games to adjust to playing in its new defensive scheme and it looked great on Friday. The Firebirds gave up one long touchdown drive and the other touchdown came on a short field after a fumbled snap on a punt.

FSHS coach Bob Lisher told his team afterward, “Don’t be down.” He’s right. The loss stings but the Firebirds made big strides against a veteran LHS squad.

Now for a look ahead to next week:

Lawrence High at Shawnee Mission Northwest on Thursday at 7 p.m. (at SM North District Stadium) — The Cougars (1-2) have lost to two of the top ranked teams in the state, SM East and Blue Valley, but feature a strong passing game with quarterback Ron Kopp and receiver Gerrit Prince. They struggle on defense where they’ve allowed 135 points this year (45 per game).

Free State at Leavenworth on Friday at 7 p.m. — Both the Firebirds and the Pioneers (0-3) will be looking for their first win of the season. Leavenworth was crushed by Lawrence High in Week Two and lost to Olathe Northwest, 30-7, last week. Against Lawrence High, the Pioneers didn’t record any passing yards while running back Wade Jackson led with 108 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence High defensive lineman Amani Bledsoe (72) comes around to wrap up Free State quarterback Bryce Torneden (1) for a sack during the first half on Friday, Sept. 17, 2015 at Free State High School.

In case you missed it, we’re copying one of the popular features of, “Keegan’s Ratings,” where Sports Editor Tom Keegan ranks KU football and men’s basketball players after every game he attends. These individual rankings are just one person’s opinion, but it’s a good way to look at how each person impacted each game.

Lawrence High football

1. Amani Bledsoe, sr. DE/RT — There’s just something about the City Showdown that brings out the best in Bledsoe. Doing his best J.J. Watt impersonation, Bledsoe was constantly in the backfield blowing up plays. I had him credited with five tackles in the backfield, one sack, and a few pass pressures. During one FSHS possession in the second quarter, he helped blow up a play for a three-yard loss on first down, made a tackle on the next play for a four-yard loss, then would’ve forced another three-yard loss on the next play if he wasn’t called for a face mask penalty.

2. Price Morgan, sr. LB/TE — Morgan was flying around to the field to make tackles and he proved why he’s one of the Sunflower League’s best linebackers. On the last FSHS drive of the first half, he made three tackles in a four-play stretch. I had him down for eight tackles in which the Firebirds gained three yards or less on the play.

3. JD Woods, sr. RB — Woods might be the only running back in the state who could be “contained” for 142 yards and two scores. The Firebirds did a good job preventing him from breaking off any long runs, but Woods was strong in the second half. He nearly put the game away with a 34-yard run to the six-yard line late in the fourth quarter before a fumbled snap gave the ball back to Free State.

4. Dante’ Jackson, soph. CB — On Free State’s final drive, the Firebirds threw at Jackson seven times, including five straight pass attempts. Those seven plays turned into three completions for 28 yards. Credit Jackson for stepping up in the biggest moments of the game and the LHS coaches for trusting him and not changing their defensive scheme.

5. Tanner Green, sr. LB — Along with Morgan, Green was everywhere chasing down ball carriers. The impressive thing about Green is his ability to make plays at the line of scrimmage and chase down runners down the field.

6. Ivan Hollins, sr. CB — With the game on the line, Hollins knocked away a pass in the final 20 seconds to secure the LHS victory. He broke up two other passes and only allowed one big completion — a 31-yard catch by Logan McKinney on the last drive.

7. Trey Georgie, sr. DE/LT — On the opposite side of the defensive line as Bledsoe, Georgie provided strong pressure on pass plays and had a couple of tackles at the line of scrimmage. His biggest play was diving on a bad snap on a Free State punt, setting up the first LHS touchdown.

8. Alan Clothier, sr. QB — Clothier finished with 17 passing yards and 23 rushing yards, but he nearly sealed the game with 3:46 left in the fourth quarter with a beautiful throw to Morgan for a 15-yard pickup on 3rd-and-12. His only negative was a fumbled snap three plays later that kept the Lions from putting more points on the scoreboard.

9. Trey Moore, jr. RB — With the Firebirds focused on stopping Woods, Moore took advantage in the second half, setting up a LHS touchdown. Moore finished with 61 yards on eight carries, including 58 yards on the touchdown drive. He also had a catch for two yards.

10. Nate Koehn, sr. DT — LHS coach Dirk Wedd said prior to the City Showdown that Koehn is tough to handle for offensive lines when he’s playing at his best. Koehn was wrecking havoc in the middle of the field, making it tough for the Firebirds to run in the middle of the field.

• Next up: Thursday at SM Northwest. Record: 3-0.

Free State football

1. Bryce Torneden, sr. QB/S — Despite heavy pressure from Lawrence’s defensive line, Torneden frequently turned nothing into something. He finished with 135 rushing yards and a touchdown, and 106 passing yards. His touchdown in the middle of the fourth quarter was an all-heart drive, which included a 30-yard run on a 4th-and-2. At safety, he made plays all over the field and rarely missed on tackles.

2. Jay Dineen, jr. LB — He looked like the best player on the field in the first quarter with some big defensive stops. In one series, Dineen made a tackle in the backfield for a seven-yard loss then snuffed out a screen pass for a tackle at the line of scrimmage. Switching jersey numbers to help out on the offensive line, Dineen made his presence felt often with tackles near the line of scrimmage.

3. Sam Skwarlo, sr. RB/LB — Along with Dineen, Skwarlo had some dominant stretches at linebacker. When the Lions were in the red zone in the first quarter, Skwarlo helped push them back with a tackle for a 13-yard loss. On the next offensive possession, Skwarlo had two big runs, including 31-yard touchdown. He finished with 54 yards on nine carries.

4. Paul Bittinger, sr. LB — Bittinger made some big tackles but his biggest play was grabbing a fumbled snap late in the fourth quarter with the Firebirds backed near their own goal line. Along with a few tackles, he ran for a first down on a fake punt in the third quarter.

5. Zack Sanders, jr. CB/WR — Similar to Skwarlo last week, it’s a shame that his game will be remembered by one mistake at the end of the game — a dropped pass when he beat a cornerback by a step or two. He was strong in coverage at cornerback, forcing two incompletions in the first half. At receiver, he led the team with 44 yards on five receptions.

6. Darian Lewis, sr. DL — Lewis had a big role in trying to slow down Lawrence’s running backs. He had a few tackles at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield, helping blow up plays. He also showed his speed with a couple of tackles downfield.

7. Logan McKinney, sr. WR — McKinney gave his team a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter with a huge catch with two defensive backs draped over him. His 31-yard reception put the Firebirds in the red zone with 32 seconds left.

8. Drew Tochtrop, sr. LB — Tochtrop was huge at linebacker during Lawrence’s first series in the second half. He made three tackles at the line of scrimmage, helping the Firebirds get the ball back after a turnover on downs.

9. Jack Flynn, sr. DB/WR — Flynn nearly grabbed an interception in the first quarter and made a nice tackle on third down in the second quarter, helping the Firebirds get the ball back. On offense, Flynn had two catches for 17 yards.

10. Bo Miller, soph. LB — Along with his fellow linebackers, Miller did a nice job of slowing down Lawrence’s run game. He made a solo tackle near the line of scrimmage at midfield at the end of the third quarter.

• Next up: Friday at Leavenworth. Record: 0-3.

photo by: Nick Krug

Free State running back Sam Skwarlo (5) shrugs off Lawrence High defenders Ivan Hollins (5) and defensive back Dante Jackson (32) on his way in for a touchdown during the first half on Friday, Sept. 17, 2015 at Free State High School.

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