Entries from blogs tagged with “High”

Firebirds split against Mill Valley; Two-Hearts and Thomsen lead rankings

During the high school basketball season, I like to think of the year in three separate sections: pre-winter break, after winter break and post tournament week.

Throughout winter break and tournament week, teams usually get about a week to practice without any interruption for games. That's usually when you see a lot of progress from each team's biggest weaknesses.

So I wouldn't judge any team as a finished product in the middle of December. But in the first three games, Free State's boys basketball team has faced two ranked teams (both of whom played in their respective state title games last year). The Firebirds earned a 68-60 victory on the road against Mill Valley on Friday.

With several returners, the Firebirds can pick up in some aspects where they left off last season. The biggest question is scoring and they've had a different leading scorer in each of the first three games.

Free State's girls basketball team suffered its first loss in a 54-42 defeat against Mill Valley. Similar to the boys team, the Firebirds are working on their scoring. I'd expect both programs to become a little bit better with their offenses following winter break, which will be a dangerous sign for opponents.

"We’ve got to get some consistency about our play," FSHS girls basketball coach Ted Juneau said. "We’ve got to understand that we can score."

For Lawrence High, the boys basketball team took third place in the Blue Valley Shootout with a 56-40 win over Highland Park. LHS senior Kobe Buffalomeat and sophomore Clarence King were named to the all-tournament team.

Lawrence's girls basketball team posted a 2-0 record during the week, including a 51-39 win over Notre Dame de Sion with 28 points from sophomore center Chisom Ajekwu.

Outside of Lawrence's two main public schools, Bishop Seabury's boys basketball team took fourth place at the Shawnee Mission East Invitational, playing Class 6A and 5A teams. The Seahawks lost in the third-place game to SM East, 56-54 in OT. Mikey Wycoff and Zach McDermott were named to the all-tournament team.

During a timeout, head coach Sam Stroh talks with his team as Free State's boys basketball team played Mill Valley Friday in Shawnee.

During a timeout, head coach Sam Stroh talks with his team as Free State's boys basketball team played Mill Valley Friday in Shawnee.


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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.

Free State girls basketball (rankings from Chris Duderstadt)

  1. Jaelyn Two-Hearts, jr. — Two-Hearts was a handful for the Jaguars before getting into foul trouble. The Free State junior got her teammates involved early, as all five starters scored in the first quarter. The offense went stagnant while Two-Hearts was hampered with foul trouble, though. Two-Hearts led the Firebirds with 12 points.

  2. Madison Piper, sr. — When Piper drove to the basket and drew the second foul on Mill Valley forward Evan Zars with 1:13 left in the first quarter, the Free State senior appeared to be her normal, aggressive self. Piper then showed off her range by knocking down a three-pointer to begin the second quarter to push the Firebirds' lead to 16-11, but she didn't score again until they trailed double digits early in the third. Piper was limited to just seven shots from the field, and finished with 10 points.

  3. Caely Kesten, fr. — Kesten showed her ability to score with four of her eight points in the first quarter, but the freshman and the Free State offense in general struggled to get open looks the rest of the way against the Jaguars.

  4. Cameryn Thomas, jr. — While shots weren't falling for the Firebirds, Thomas stayed in attack mode to get to the line. Thomas got the line fives times to lead the Firebirds, and made three of her attempts. The junior guard also made two of her three shots from the field.

  5. Sam Lawrence, soph. — Lawrence made her lone field goal to tie the game at 4-4 in the opening minutes, but she missed her other three attempts from the field. Free State coach Ted Juneau said after the game that Lawrence and Kesten are both capable of big games throughout the season despite being underclassmen, but there could be a few bumps along the way against good defensive teams.

  6. Erin Cushing, jr. — Cushing came off the bench in the second quarter and knocked down both of her free-throw attempts to account for both of her points.

  7. Jaycie Bishop, sr. — Bishop didn't score, but she was active on the defensive end in her minutes off the bench.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Monday at Central Academy of Excellence. Record: 1-1.

Free State boys basketball (rankings from Chris Duderstadt)

  1. Sloan Thomsen, sr. — Thomsen was locked in from long distance — hitting two of his four three-pointers in the third quarter shortly after the Jaguars had taken their first lead. The 6-foot-6 sharp-shooter also knocked down four free throws in the fourth quarter to help fend off a final charge from the Jaguars. Thomsen finished with a season-best 20 points,

  2. Shannon Cordes, sr. — Cordes took early by scoring the first four points of the game, and the Firebirds fed off of his energy. The senior guard jump-started the Firebirds in the second quarter as well by scoring their first five points of the period. Cordes was one of three Firebirds in double figures with 16 points.

  3. Jay Dineen, sr. — Dineen finished off the Jaguars by doing most of his damage at the free-throw line. The Firebird senior attacked the rim with a vengeance on his way to making three of four from the field and eight of 12 from the line to finish with 14 points.

  4. Cameron Clark, sr. — The Jaguars didn't have anyone inside that could match up with the 6-foot-7 Clark. He did a lot of the dirty work down low for the Firebirds, and made four of his eight shots from the field to give him eight points.

  5. Jalan Robinson, jr. — Robinson helped set the tone in the paint with Clark down low. The 6-foot-4 forward made half of his shots from the field as well (two for four), but the Firebirds front court duo did struggle from the charity stripe — combining to make just one of eight.

  6. Jacob Pavlyak, sr. — Pavlyak only scored four points, but his second field goal came at a big moment, as he tied the game back up at 36-36 after the Jaguars took their lone lead on a Mason Little three-pointer.

  7. Simon McCaffrey, jr. — McCaffrey helped pick up the slack on defense after Pavlyak fouled out. The Firebird guards struggled to stop Cooper Kaifes — who led all scorers with 33 points — but the rest of the Mill Valley backcourt was held in check.

    — Next up: 8:30 p.m. Friday vs. Lawrence at Allen Fieldhouse. Record: 2-1.

As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Lions sweep Topeka in season openers; post players top player rankings

It's a new high school basketball season and Lawrence High's basketball programs are both ranked, but enter the season with completely different types of teams.

Lawrence's girls basketball team, which returned all five starters from last season, has plenty of experience and its players are comfortable playing alongside each other. From watching one game, it looks like the Lions have more depth from last season, which makes sense because so many of the younger players are a year older.

The LHS boys basketball team, which has reached the Class 6A state tournament in the last two seasons, only returns one starter and a couple of key players off of the bench. The Lions have talent, but are younger than they have been in several seasons. That means there will be some growing pains and players will need some time to get used to playing together.

In the season opener Friday, Lawrence's girls basketball team, ranked No. 7 in 6A, won 56-44 with a couple of dominant stretches in the second and third quarter. That's different than the boys team, ranked No. 10, which had trouble holding a lead in the fourth quarter, but found a way to rip out a 53-49 win over Topeka, which was the 100th career win for coach Mike Lewis.

Both teams are highly-regarded, judging by their rankings, but took different ways to get there.

Meanwhile, I didn't get a chance to watch Free State's boys and girls basketball teams play Saturday, but both teams also won their season openers.

Free State's boys basketball team beat top-ranked Barstow (Mo.), 56-53, in a neutral-site game. Free State's girls team, under new coach Ted Juneau, earned a 54-42 win over Lincoln Prep.

Lawrence High sophomore center Chisom Ajekwu (45) attempts a shot over Topeka's Erica Birch during the Lions' season-opener on Friday against Topeka at LHS.

Lawrence High sophomore center Chisom Ajekwu (45) attempts a shot over Topeka's Erica Birch during the Lions' season-opener on Friday against Topeka at LHS.


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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 girls basketball

  1. Chisom Ajekwu, soph. — Ajekwu sets the tone for the Lions and it was no coincidence that they played some of their best basketball when she was at her best. During a big run in the second quarter, she had four points, three rebounds, a block and a steal. The 6-3 sophomore, who was in foul trouble from the very start, had nine points, eight rebounds and two blocks.

    "Chisom really is the motor that pushes our program," LHS coach Jeff Dickson said. "I was really proud of the way she kept her composure (after foul trouble)."

  2. Hannah Stewart, soph. — Obviously there’s only been one game played, but if we’ll make rash generalizations, it looked like Stewart made as much offseason improvement among any returning starter. Mostly a steady point guard last year, Stewart appears ready to have a bigger role on the offense. She finished with seven points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists with only two turnovers.

  3. Skylar Drum, sr. — Drum helped the Lions add to their lead in the third quarter, scoring three points with two steals in a 30-second stretch. Such a great defender because of her length and speed, Drum filled the stat sheet with seven points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals.

  4. Olivia Lemus, sr. — Every time the Lions go through a prolonged stretch without a basket, it seems like Lemus has a sixth sense to step up with a key bucket. She tied for the team-high of 10 points, adding three rebounds and a steal with aggressive full-court defense.

  5. E’lease Stafford, jr. — In her first game back on the court following a torn ACL at the end of last year’s regular season, Stafford played well. She fell to the court on one drive, but didn’t look to be affected by her knee brace. She had eight points, two rebounds and a blocked shot.

  6. Sammy Williams, soph. — With Ajekwu in foul trouble (and eventually fouling out), Williams was needed in the low post. She didn’t score on four shots but she made her presence felt in every other area. She controlled the paint with six rebounds and a blocked shot, playing solid defense against Topeka’s post players.

  7. Tamo Thomas, jr. — The Royal Valley transfer showcased plenty of potential in her LHS debut, tying for a team-high 10 points. She has a real knack for jumping passing lanes, grabbing two steals and affecting countless others. Her only problem Tuesday was getting her shot to drop, shooting 3-of-13 from the field.

  8. Talima Harjo, jr. — Harjo always brings a lot of energy off of the bench and Tuesday was no different. She had three points with four rebounds and two steals. If she hits three-pointers like she did last year, she will be a big headache for opposing defenses.

  9. Tyrin Cosey, jr. — A speedy point guard, Cosey wasn’t afraid to fight for rebounds inside of the three-point line. She had three rebounds and two points off of the bench.

  10. Leslie Ostronic, soph. — Ostronic missed her only shot attempt at the end of the fourth quarter, but played her usual strong defense, which earned her playing time last season as a freshman. She added one rebound.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Tuesday at Topeka Hayden (ranked #1 in 4A-II). Record: 1-0.

Lawrence High boys basketball

  1. Kobe Buffalomeat, sr. — In crunch time, Buffalomeat stepped up with some of his best play in his varsity career. He had six points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter, including four straight points after the Lions trailed by a point. He finished with team-highs of 12 points and seven rebounds.

  2. Clarence King, soph. — After sitting out a season because of a transfer from AC Prep in Kansas City, King scored 10 points in his varsity debut with five rebounds, two assists and a steal. He shot 4-of-6 from the floor, showed off some nice ball handling and made some good passes through traffic. The big thing for him is just gaining experience, turning the ball over five times.

  3. Noah Butler, soph. — Butler showcased his athleticism with a couple of nice drives to the rim. He scored five of his nine points in the third quarter, drilling a three-pointer and scoring on a layup. He had a little bit of foul trouble, but added four rebounds.

  4. Jackson Mallory, sr. — The only returning starter for the Lions, Mallory did many of the things that made him so valuable last year. He filled the stat sheet with five points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals. The only negative was he tried to force a couple of passes and ended up with five turnovers.

  5. Brett Chapple, soph. — Chapple played like the classic glue guy that every team needs. He was in the right place at the right times, scoring four points with five rebounds and three steals.

  6. Trey Quartlebaum, soph. — The 6-foot point guard scored seven of his nine points in the first half, including one impressive step-back jumper after losing a defender off of the dribble. He showcased plenty of potential, shooting 4-of-6 from the floor with one rebound and one steal.

  7. Braden Solko, sr. — The veteran guard was his usual self, providing plenty of stability on both sides of the ball. He scored two points and had one rebound.

  8. Anthony Selden, jr. — Selden couldn’t get his offense going, shooting 0-for-4 from the floor including a missed dunk in transition. But he was solid in every other phase of the game, adding four rebounds and one big rejection on defense, swatting a shot like a fly.

  9. Austin Miller, sr. — Off of the bench, Miller had two points and two rebounds. He played solid defense in crunch time and made a clutch free throw for a four-point with 23 seconds left, which helped seal the win for the Lions.

    — Next up: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday vs. Lee's Summit North in Blue Valley Shootout. Record: 1-0.

As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Football Game Tape: Week Seven

In a matchup between the top two teams in the Sunflower League standings, Lawrence High's football team learned why Shawnee Mission East is such a tough matchup for opponents.

The Lancers feature the top offense in the state, scoring 35 points in the first half on their way to a 48-26 victory over Lawrence. The way they run the flexbone offense is so much faster, more explosive than any other team in the league. Then their defense has the size and physicality to punish offenses.

In the first half, the Lions needed things to go right to keep up with the Lancers offensively. But a fumble on the first drive and an injury to junior quarterback Dante Jackson hurt those chances. Instead, SM East proved its among the elite teams in Class 6A this season, along with Derby and Blue Valley.

Fortunately for the Lions, they don't have much time to dwell on the loss. Not when the City Showdown is a few days away.

Free State's football team didn't play its best in a 28-14 road victory over Olathe East, when the Firebirds didn't create as much offense as they wanted.

It's likely just a matter of jumping out to a faster start. In the last four weeks, all wins, the Firebirds only have two offensive touchdowns in the first quarter.

The Firebirds are tied with SM East in the league standings and could earn a share of a league title for the first time since 2013. They lost to SM West in the first week, but that was technically an open date (choice to play any team) and didn't count toward the league standings. But of course, they have enough motivation for the upcoming City Showdown matchup without worrying about a league title.

"All the seniors remember last year and how we lost that game," FSHS senior Jay Dineen said. "It still leaves a feeling in my stomach that's just not good. We need to get that one back."

Now for a look ahead to next week:

Lawrence High at Free State on Friday at 7 p.m. — For the first time since 2013, the City Showdown returns to its spot as the last game of the regular season because of the end of the district playoff format. Free State, which has won eight of the last 10 rivalry games, leads the all-time series, 11-8. Lawrence High won last year's game, 14-12. We'll have much more coverage of the City Showdown throughout the week on ljworld.com.

After getting behind the Shawnee Mission East secondary, Lawrence High junior receiver Ekow Boye-Doe (12) hauls in a long pass for a touchdown during their game Friday night at LHS.

After getting behind the Shawnee Mission East secondary, Lawrence High junior receiver Ekow Boye-Doe (12) hauls in a long pass for a touchdown during their game Friday night at LHS. by John Young


If you're new to the blog, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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. Trey Moore, sr. RB — In the first half, Moore had some success running the ball — rushing for 67 yards in the first half on 15 carries. He helped push the Lions across midfield on a couple of drives against a strong SM East front-seven. With the game out of hand, Moore didn’t stop running hard with two long touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Moore finished with 217 yard, 150 on his last three carries.

  2. Santino Gee, sr. LB — When SM East’s starting offense was on the field, the Lions only had three run plays that were stopped for no gain. Gee made two of those tackles, including a huge hit with his shoulder in the third quarter. He did a nice job of filling the gap on run plays up the middle and making tackles.

  3. Ekow Boye-Doe, sr. WR/CB — With the Lions struggling to find a rhythm on offense, Boye-Doe faked like he was run blocking, then ran past every defender for an easy 60-yard touchdown catch. His only negative was he fell down on the chest bump following the score. Boye-Doe finished with two catches for 68 yards.

  4. Jake Unruh, sr. DE — Unruh made some nice tackles around the line of scrimmage on a couple of run plays that went to his direction and he provided a decent pass rush on a couple of drop backs.

  5. Dante Jackson, jr. QB/CB — The biggest theme in Lawrence’s two losses this season is that Jackson had to exit because of an injury. He was under pressure on nearly every pass attempt, dancing around in the backfield like a punt returner before throwing the ball (6 of 8 for 114 yards). The Lancers did a good job of keeping him from running too much and they certainly hit him as much as possible on option plays.

  6. Clarence King, soph. WR — Trailing by 15 points in the second quarter, Jackson heaved up a toss when he was under heavy pass pressure on 4th-and-18 and King caught a jump ball over a defender to the one-yard line for a critical first down. The Lions scored on the next play to cut the score to 21-12 before the Lancers scored a pair of touchdowns to end the first half. King had two catches for 36 yards.

  7. James Reeder, sr. DB —Forced a punt during the first quarter with a key tackle on 3rd-and-6, which was SM East’s fifth or sixth punt of the year. Reeder did a nice job in pass coverage, breaking up a pair of passes included a toss near the end zone in the third quarter.

  8. Jaxon Malone, soph. CB — Filling in for Jackson at cornerback after his injury, Malone made some nice tackles in the run game, including a sweep to the outside in the second half to force 4th-and-long.

  9. Erik Shackelford, sr. LB — The speedy linebacker flew to the ball and made some nice tackles on run plays. The Lancers went with a short kickoff strategy, mostly kicking to Shackelford who did a nice job of holding onto the ball and he started to make some decent returns in the second half.

  10. Mark Greene, sr. DT — Greene, along with BJ Murry and (I believe) Kaiden Ambrose, made some key tackles for short gains up the middle. The problem is it’s so difficult to stop the Lancers in the backfield because they are always running downhill.

    — Rankings from Bobby Nightengale

Free State football

  1. David Johnson, jr. LB — The Free State linebacker had a nose for the football in Friday night's road matchup against Olathe East. Johnson forced one of three Olathe East fumbles. The Free State junior also snuffed out a bootleg when the Hawks went for it on 4th-and-3, and came up with a tackle just short of the line to gain to force a turnover on downs.

  2. Zion Bowlin, sr. RB — Bowlin wasn't pleased with his performance, but he still did plenty to get the Firebirds in the win column. The physical running back scored on a 61-yard touchdown run, and had 152 yards on 26 carries. Outside of the breakaway touchdown run, many of Bowlin's yards came after contact.

  3. Gage Foster, jr. LB — While the Hawks did not air it out much, they did not have much time to do so anyway thanks to Foster. The junior linebacker had a sack, a stop for no gain and had two near sacks of Olathe East backup quarterback Hunter Thomas that ended up being incompletions. Foster also played a big role in stopping the run.

  4. Jay Dineen, sr. LB — Dineen was at the center of containing the Hawks' flexbone-style offense, grabbing an interception late in the first half. The Free State senior was also able to get to the quarterback when the Hawks dropped back to pass. Dineen helped take down OE starting quarterback Will Scofield in the second quarter, and force a fumble that was recovered by the Firebirds. Scofield remained on the turf for 20 minutes before being carted off the field, but tweeted, "Thank you everyone for keeping me in your prayers and for the support it really mean a lot and I appreciate it," following the game.

  5. Zack Sanders, sr. WR — Sanders hauled in a team-high five receptions for 99 yards. His first two catches were just before the end of the first half while the Hawks were in a prevent defense, but they were big completions to build Free State quarterback Dallas Crittenden's confidence after he struggled to hit his receivers.

  6. Kameron Lake, so. K — Lake had plenty of distance his two successful field goals of 31 and 40 yards. His lone miss never had a chance with it being blocked by a Hawks player that was unblocked off of the edge.

  7. Drew Wise, sr. LB — Wise came up with the fumble recovery on the play that Scofield was injured on. The Free State linebacking corps has been solid while the Firebirds try to patch up some holes in the secondary.

  8. Dallas Crittenden, sr. QB — Crittenden did not have his best game throwing the ball, but he made a couple of big plays with his legs to prolong drives. The senior quarterback rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown on five carries, and also threw for a score late in the fourth quarter.

  9. Daniel Bryant, sr. WR — Bryant was the recipient of Crittenden's 36-yard touchdown pass over the middle. It was one of two catches for Bryant.

  10. Nathan Spain, jr. NT/C — Spain started at nose tackle in place of Sam Hambleton, and helped stuff the Hawks run game. The Firebirds were disciplined for much of the night on both the offensive and defensive lines, as Free State only committed four penalties for 35 yards.

    — Rankings from Chris Duderstadt

    David Johnson (31) wraps up Trevon Kearney in first half action as Free State played Olathe East Friday at ODAC.

    David Johnson (31) wraps up Trevon Kearney in first half action as Free State played Olathe East Friday at ODAC. by Kevin Anderson/Special to the Journal-World


It's the last week of the regular season and here is a look at the current playoff standings:

If the season ended today, Lawrence High would be the No. 3 seed in the East bracket and would play No. 14 seed Olathe North in the first round at home, but of course, that's likely to change in the next week. The Lions can't improve their seed this week, but could drop to fourth with a loss.

The Firebirds are the No. 6 seed in the West bracket and could jump to as high as fourth with a victory. With a loss, the Firebirds could drop to seventh, depending on how Washburn Rural plays next week, but they are guaranteed a home game. If the season ended today, Free State would play No. 11 seed Dodge City in the first round.

6A East football playoff standings/Kpreps.com

6A East football playoff standings/Kpreps.com by Bobby Nightengale



6A West football playoff standings/Kpreps.com

6A West football playoff standings/Kpreps.com by Bobby Nightengale


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Football Game Tape: Week Six

Through the first few weeks of the season, Free State football team's main focus was fixing a few holes in its secondary after giving up some big plays.

The Firebirds saw the benefits of their hard work with a 35-0 victory against Olathe Northwest. It was the second shutout of the season and they've only allowed a combined 17 points in the past three games.

One thing that was noticeable was the Firebirds' aggressiveness to jump routes. They played tight coverage on receivers but were ready to make a hit as soon as the ball arrived.

"It was very rewarding," FSHS coach Bob Lisher said. "Our guys have been working hard and they haven’t had the payoff that they needed. But tonight, we played pretty good in the secondary and I think we played pretty good defensively overall."

Lawrence High's football team started fast in a 42-10 rout over Olathe South. The offense scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and the defense matched the intensity to give the Lions a 35-0 by halftime.

Averaging 8.9 yards per rushing attempt says a lot about Lawrence's offensive line, which had zero returning starters to begin the season.

But with some new faces and players in new roles because of injuries throughout the year on the O-line, the Lions proved they are only getting stronger.

“Our offensive line was tremendous again,” LHS quarterback Dante' Jackson said. “They do it day-in and day-out. They really don’t get enough credit for it.”

Now for a look ahead to next week:

Free State at Olathe East, at ODAC, on Friday at 7 p.m. — The Hawks (2-4) have lost two games by seven points and they've struggled to sustain much offense — scoring more than three touchdowns in only one game this year. O-East junior Will Scofield (unrelated to the main character in Prison Break) is the top running back with 290 yards and six touchdowns. On defense, junior Camron Mitchell-Johnson averages a team-best 9.5 tackles per game.

Shawnee Mission East at Lawrence High on Friday at 7 p.m. — Ranked No. 3 in the state, the Lancers (5-1) have the highest-scoring offense in Class 6A with a potent run game led by Nigil Houston, a transfer from SM West and second-team all-Sunflower League pick last year. Quarterback Luke Kaiser has thrown for several touchdowns this year, including a 54-yard pass to Sky Tate last week.

Free State's Noah Kema (8) receives a pass Friday night against the Olathe Northwest Ravens at FSHS. The Firebirds won, 35-0.

Free State's Noah Kema (8) receives a pass Friday night against the Olathe Northwest Ravens at FSHS. The Firebirds won, 35-0. by Sam Goodwin/Special to the Journal-World


If you're new to the blog, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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. Trey Moore, sr. RB — Moore made sure the Lions would not falter in the first half this time around. The senior back scored all three of his touchdowns in the first quarter en route to a 180 yard night on 20 carries.

  2. Dante Jackson, jr. QB/CB — Jackson was electric in the route, running the ball 13 times for 160 yards and two scores. He effectively ran the option all night, knowing when exactly to keep it and pitch it to Moore.

  3. Jake Unruh, sr. DE — Multiple times Olathe South chose to run to the short side of the field in order to avoid Unruh’s side on the defensive line. Unruh was constantly in the backfield in the lopsided affair and maintained the Eagles’ offensive attack.

  4. Azariah LeBrun, sr. LB — Olathe South faced mostly reserves in the second half and ended up accumulating 307 yards on 44 carries. LeBrun anchored a linebacker unit that helped keep the Eagles out of the end zone for much of the game.

  5. BJ Murry, sr. DT — After surrendering a nine-play drive on the defense’s first stance, the Lions stiffened and locked down the Eagles attack. Murry and the rest of the defensive line met them at the scrimmage forcing three consecutive three-and-outs following that first drive.

  6. Jacob Mills, jr. C — Even without starting right guard Jesse Tunget, Lawrence High amassed 418 yards on the ground on 47 attempts. That was due to major continuations such as Mills from the offensive line, who stepped up in Tunget’s absence.

  7. Jaxon Malone, soph. CB — The Eagles were unable to get anything going through the air thanks to the play of Malone. LHS limited its opponent to just 38 passing yards on the night after the team threw for 127 the week before against Free State.

  8. Clarence King, soph. WR — King was once again Jackson’s favorite target as King led the team in catches with three for 28 yards. In addition, King’s down the field blocking proved to be crucial on the team’s long runs.

  9. Kristian Russell, jr. LT — Russell manned Jackson’s blind side all night as the quarterback complete 6-of-8 passes for 52 yards and a score. Lawrence High also ran a number of it’s running plays to the left side of the line.

  10. Cole Brungardt, sr. K — Brungardt knocked in all six of extra point attempts after booting all four of his attempts in last week.

    — Rankings from Shane Jackson

Free State football

  1. Gabe del Valle, jr. CB — Del Valle played as good of a game as you can ask from a defensive back. He grabbed an interception and broke up three passes. One of his best tackles was in the second quarter when the Ravens attempted a screen pass to Del Valle’s side and he had a receiver in front of him to block. Del Valle shed the block and made the tackle in space for no gain, forcing a punt two plays later. The Firebirds scored on the next possession.

  2. Zion Bowlin, sr. RB/DB — In the secondary, Bowlin was a big part of Free State’s blanket coverage, forcing 18 incompletions and giving up only 51 yards. On offense, Bowlin ran for 132 yards and a touchdown on 18 attempts, including a 65-yard rush to the two-yard line.

  3. Zack Sanders, sr. WR/CB — With two touchdowns in the second half, Sanders has scored a ridiculous nine touchdowns in the past three weeks. He caught seven passes for 52 yards, but was swarmed by defenders on underneath routes. Defensively, he broke up one long pass with a huge hit with his shoulder to knock the ball out of a receiver’s hands.

  4. Noah Kema, sr. DT/TE — Along with strong coverage in the secondary, Kema provided strong pass rush and was constantly in the backfield. He recorded at least a pair of tackles around the line of scrimmage and forced an intentional grounding penalty on one pass rush. At tight end, Kema made three catches for 40 yards.

  5. Chase Houk, sr. LT — After hearing from coaches at halftime about picking up the intensity, Free State’s offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage in the second half, especially the left side with Houk. The Firebirds ran for 236 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and provided a strong pocket for QB Dallas Critteden.

  6. Jay Dineen, sr. LB/LG — One of the best run defenses in the Sunflower League starts with Dineen finding his way into the backfield to make tackles. He batted down at least one pass at the line of scrimmage to help out his secondary, too. All that was along with some key blocks on the offensive line.

  7. Daniel Bryant, sr. WR/CB — Bryant caught a 34-yard pass in the second quarter to the six-yard line, breaking a tackle on a slant route. Two plays later, it turned into the Firebirds’ first touchdown. At cornerback, he provided nice coverage and dropped an interception after jumping a route in the third quarter.

  8. Jax Dineen, so. RB/LB — A punishing runner for defenders, Dineen ran for 61 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. That included a 49-yard run in the fourth quarter with a nice cut up the middle of the field. Dineen added several tackles at linebacker and a half-sack.

  9. Dallas Crittenden, sr. QB — Crittenden found his rhythm in the second half, taking the throws that Olathe Northwest’s defense allowed and not forcing any passes. He completed 16 of his 24 passes for 189 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. On his touchdown throw in the fourth quarter, he did a great job of scrambling before finding Sanders in the back of the end zone.

  10. Nick Eddis, sr. DT — Played well on the defensive line, helping stuff Olathe Northwest’s run game. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Eddis made a tackle on an option pitch. Then on the next play, fourth down, he combined on a sack with Jax Dineen for a turnover on downs.

    — Rankings from Bobby Nightengale

    Jake Unruh (7) got his fingers on the ball to deflect a pass in the first half as Lawrence High played Olathe South Friday at ODAC.

    Jake Unruh (7) got his fingers on the ball to deflect a pass in the first half as Lawrence High played Olathe South Friday at ODAC. by Kevin Anderson/Special to the Journal-World


With only two weeks left in the regular season, here is a look at the current playoff standings.

Note: For the first time since the 1980, KSHSAA isn't using a district playoff system. Instead it's an eight-game regular season before all of the teams are seeded 1 through 16 for the ninth game — the first round of the playoffs.

6A East playoff standings/Kpreps.com

6A East playoff standings/Kpreps.com by Bobby Nightengale



6A West playoff standings/Kpreps.com

6A West playoff standings/Kpreps.com by Bobby Nightengale


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Football Game Tape: Week Five

During the past two weeks, it would be hard to find a defense that has stopped the run better than Free State's football team.

The Firebirds have allowed opponents to rush for 80 yards on 59 attempts in their two-game winning streak, a minuscule 1.36 yards per carry.

When the Firebirds are keeping teams one-dimensional — and playing well on offense — they are tough to keep up with. Free State won 35-10 over Olathe South last week.

The Firebirds returned a lot of defensive players from last season, but it took them a few weeks to get comfortable playing alongside each other and they've adjusted for a few injuries.

Of course, it's easier to play defense when the offense is scoring — and senior Zack Sanders has made sure of that. Along with scoring 10 touchdowns this year, he's had two games with at least 200 receiving yards. To put that in perspective, the previous single-game school record was 187.

Lawrence High's football players didn't look great in the first half, but they made the necessary adjustments for a 28-7 victory at Olathe North.

It was like a battle of the eras with Lawrence featuring the new-school, no-huddle offense and platoons. Olathe North featured the old-school, flexbone offense that eats up a ton of clock and is just a run-at-you style.

"You know it’s going to be smashmouth," LHS coach Dirk Wedd said of playing O-North. "You better come with your work clothes on and roll up your sleeves because they are going to hit you."

Give plenty of credit to the Lions for improving their play in the second half. They didn't panic when the offense was a little out of rhythm. They didn't panic when they had trouble stopping the run in the first two quarters.

For a team that had a lot of question marks at the beginning of the season, it's easy to see this young team gaining confidence with each game and becoming much, much more dangerous for opponents.

Now for a look ahead to next week:

Olathe Northwest at Free State on Friday at 7 p.m. — Fresh off a 34-0 victory over Leavenworth, the Ravens (2-3) have won their past two games and found a rhythm offensively. Quarterback Easton Crupper has a strong arm, tossing a 79-yard TD pass last week. RB Drew Dumas scored two touchdowns against Leavenworth.

Lawrence High at Olathe South, at ODAC, on Friday at 7 p.m. — After a 25-point loss to Free State, Olathe South will continue its tour of Lawrence teams. The Falcons (1-4) struggled to create much offense against the Firebirds, but are led by dual-threat quarterback Nick Jouret, who threw for 127 yards and one score last week.

Clarence King (17) tries to elude a triple threat of Eagles as Lawrence played Olathe North on Friday night at ODAC.

Clarence King (17) tries to elude a triple threat of Eagles as Lawrence played Olathe North on Friday night at ODAC. by Kevin Anderson/Special to the Journal-World


If you're new to the blog, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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. Jake Unruh, sr. DE — After changing his three-point stance, Unruh said he had one of his best weeks of practice this season. It transferred to the field and he made about eight tackles at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield. Perhaps his best moment came on O-North’s first drive of the second half. He made a tackle and was penalized for targeting. Two plays later, he drilled a running back for a six-yard loss, turning a negative into a positive.

  2. Trey Moore, sr. RB — After missing a game with a hand injury, Moore was dominant in the second half. He finished with 110 yards and two touchdowns on 23 attempts — 90 of those yards in the final two quarters with a few key third-down conversions.

  3. BJ Murry, sr. DT — When the Lions needed a stop midway through the fourth quarter, 4th-and-1 at the 25-yard line, Murry and fellow defensive tackle Mark Greene stood their ground for a crucial stop. Along with a few tackles at the line of scrimmage, Murry sacked O-North’s quarterback and forced a fumble for a 14-yard loss in the third quarter.

  4. Azariah LeBrun, sr. LB — LeBrun didn’t play football last season, but the Lions are sure happy to have him contributing this year. Always in the backfield, LeBrun had several tackles at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield. Then he added a tackle on a kickoff in open space for a three-yard loss and a pooch kick recovery at the end of the game to help the Lions keep the ball.

  5. Dante Jackson, jr. QB/CB — He didn’t have his best day throwing the ball and O-North’s defense was geared up to stop him, but credit to Jackson for finding a way to step up in the second half. On the first drive of the third quarter, he broke a few tackles to convert on a 3rd-and-10. Then he did the same on the team’s final drive, running for a 21-yard pickup on 3rd-and-1 to drain the clock. Jackson had 83 rushing yards and 82 passing yards.

  6. Samuel Bart, soph. DE — Filling in for an injured Eric Galbreath on the defensive line, Bart made some great plays. The 6-foot-4, 193-pound defensive end, Bart crushed an option pitch on 3rd-and-8 in the second quarter for a tackle in the backfield. He added another key stop in the backfield before halftime, forcing a punt.

  7. Jacob Mills, jr. C — In the first half, the Lions had four drives that were four plays or less and they were off the field in less than 91 seconds. Credit Mills and the rest of the LHS offensive line for making adjustments in the second half, helping the Lions dominate with their run game. The Lions averaged 6.2 yards per carry in the last two quarters.

  8. Clarence King, soph. WR — Jackson’s favorite target Friday, King caught three passes for 48 yards and drew three pass interference penalties. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound receiver is tough to stop in jump ball situations and he made the most of them. He also had one nice kick return negated by a holding penalty.

  9. Jaxon Malone, soph. CB — The Eagles only attempted two passes and one of them was a fade pass along the right sideline that was broken up by Malone at the end of the first half. It was the first play after O-North’s touchdown drive, so it helped stop momentum.

  10. Cole Brungardt, sr. K — Along with knocking in four extra points, the Birthday Boy stopped a potential kick-return touchdown with a nice play in open space in the third quarter. He also delivered a couple of perfect pooch kicks — one that recovered by the Lions and another that was caught out of bounds.

    — Rankings from Bobby Nightengale

Free State football

  1. Zack Sanders, sr. WR/CB — Sanders caught eight balls for 200 yards and three scores to lift the Firebirds past .500 for the first time all season. He has scored seven touchdowns over his last two games and remains the focal point on the offense.

  2. Dallas Crittenden, sr. QB — The Topeka Hayden transfer had one of his best performances at Free State, completing 15-of-20 passes for 244 yards and three scores. Crittenden even ran the ball nine times for a total of 47 yards.

  3. Jax Dineen, so. RB/LB — Due to an injury, Dineen’s workload on offense increased in the second half. After carrying the ball just twice in the first two quarters, Dineen finished with 10 attempts for 164 yards, including a 57-yard touchdown.

  4. Gage Foster, sr. RB/ROLB — Foster was constantly in the backfield taking Olathe South’s dual-threat quarterback Nick Jouret to the ground. In addition to keeping Jouret in check, Foster carried the ball seven times for 45 yards.

  5. Jay Dineen, sr. LB/LG — Dineen helped the Firebirds defensive front hold Jouret all night on his 16 rushing attempts. Jouret managed 33 positive yards, but was brought down behind the line of scrimmage multiple times, losing a total of 31 yards on the evening.

  6. Daniel Bryant, sr. WR/DB — With Sanders on the other side of the secondary, the Falcons targeted Bryant’s side through the air. Bryant held his own, as Olathe South managed just 127 passing yards. Bryant also hauled in four passes for 29 yards at receiver.

  7. Nathan Spain, jr. C — Spain spearheaded an offensive line which created enough holes for Free State to accumulate 310 yards on 37 rushes.

  8. Chase Houk, sr. LT — Houk and the rest of the line kept Crittenden upright throughout the game. He was especially important on a pair of long touchdown passes, both of which were 65 yards or more.

  9. Zion Bowlin, sr. RB/DB — The lead back returned to the Firebirds after missing the previous week because of an ankle injury. Bowlin toted the ball six times for 40 yards with a touchdown, before he got “dinged up” and missing the entire second half.

  10. Kameron Lake, so. K — Knocked in all five of his extra point attempts.

    — Rankings from Shane Jackson

    Free State High senior Jay Dineen, left, collars Olathe South quarterback Nick Jouret after a small gain  during the Firebirds' homecoming game Friday night at FSHS.

    Free State High senior Jay Dineen, left, collars Olathe South quarterback Nick Jouret after a small gain during the Firebirds' homecoming game Friday night at FSHS. by John Young


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Football Game Tape: Week Four

Lawrence High football players were upset about their loss against Lee's Summit West and were looking to make a statement when they played Shawnee Mission West.

That message was heard loud and clear.

The Lions were dominant with their no-huddle offense and rolled to a 49-19 victory over SM West. Defensively, they were just as strong with a great push up front by their linemen.

"They killed it today. Our D-line is amazing," junior quarterback/cornerback Dante Jackson said. "If we just play like that every game, there’s no way people are going to be able to put points on us."

The Lions had so many questions entering the season that it was hard to predict how they'd look early in the season. With a 3-1 record, they certainly deserve praise, like this column from Tom Keegan, for making all of their offseason changes work so well.

For Free State, senior Zack Sanders continued his dominant season with one of the best games in his career, scoring four touchdowns in a 41-7 victory against Shawnee Mission Northwest. He scored in every phase of the game with two touchdown catches, a punt return score and an interception return for a score.

Sanders is one of the state's leaders in receiving yards and he's becoming more dangerous on special teams and defense.

"We should've punted away from (Sanders) to start with," SM Northwest coach Bo Black told the Shawnee Dispatch. "Once he's in the open field, we're not catching him."

The Firebirds (2-2) didn't have their cleanest game in the secondary and a fumble at the goal line, but they bounced back with a strong first half after a loss to Park Hill. One great sign was the strength of their run game, averaging 6.3 yards per carry even without senior RB Zion Bowlin.

Now for a look ahead to next week:

Olathe South at Free State on Friday at 7 p.m. — With a 28-21 victory over Olathe East last week, the Falcons handed coach Craig Lewis his first career victory at the school. The Falcons (1-3) are led by quarterback Nick Jouret, who is a strong runner and scored three touchdowns in last week's win.

Lawrence High at Olathe North, at ODAC, on Friday at 7 p.m. — The Eagles (1-3) have their first losing record since 2012 after graduating a talented senior class. They've only completed two passes on offense this season, relying on running backs Deion Poindexter (366 yards and TD) and Jonya Boyd (259 yards and 3 TD), and quarterback Mason Myers (183 yards and 4 TD). Junior Ryan Huck is their leading tackler with 31 stops this season. They lost to Shawnee Mission East last week, 48-13.

Free State High sophomore Jax Dineen (33) pulls Shawnee Mission Northwest senior Xavier Perry (24) into the end zone with him during their game Friday night in Shawnee.

Free State High sophomore Jax Dineen (33) pulls Shawnee Mission Northwest senior Xavier Perry (24) into the end zone with him during their game Friday night in Shawnee. by John Young


If you're new to the blog, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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. Dante Jackson, jr. QB/CB — Jackson set the tone early with a few tackles in the secondary, then airing the ball out on offense. He completed 10 of his 18 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. With the pass game working, he opened up the run game, running for 74 yards and two scores. But one play that sticks out was midway through the second quarter: He just threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown and on the next play, he blocked the extra point attempt.

  2. Ekow Boye-Doe, jr. WR/CB — Boye-Doe scored the first touchdown of his varsity career on the first drive of the second half, making a nine-yard grab over the middle. He ended up with five catches for 79 yards and he grabbed an interception in the fourth quarter when he said he cramped up, but fortunately the ball was tipped to him.

  3. Eric Galbreath, soph. DE — It’s hard to make a bigger impact on the defensive line than Galbreath did Friday. It seemed like every play he was in the backfield for a stop. I counted him with four tackles in the backfield, including one sack.

  4. Jake Unruh, sr. DE — The main mission for Lawrence’s defense was to keep SM West quarterback Zach Witters in the pocket so he couldn’t run loose for big plays. Unruh and Galbreath did it better than any other defensive front this season. Unruh constantly applied pass pressure and he recorded one sack and one pass breakup.

  5. James Reeder, sr. RB/DB — Starting at running back in place of injured Trey Moore, Reeder did a nice job of following his blockers and making nice cuts upfield. He scored on two long touchdown runs in the fourth quarter, ending up with 144 yards on 24 attempts. He added a critical 45-yard reception on a 3rd-and-14 on the first drive of the second half, setting up Boye-Doe's touchdown catch, and he partially blocked a punt.

  6. Santino Gee, sr. LB/RB — Reminding everybody of last year’s linebacking corps that had three seniors, Gee was flying around the field for tackles. He had four tackles for loss or at the line of scrimmage, one sack and one fumble recovery. On offense, he ran with some intensity, going for 31 yards on seven carries.

  7. Jalen Dudley, jr. WR — The 6-foot-2, 172-pound receiver finished with three catches for 56 yards, including an eight-yard touchdown catch along the right sideline in the first half. But his biggest catch was a jump ball at the end of the first quarter. Despite drawing a pass interference penalty, Dudley made the catch over a cornerback for a 31-yard pickup, setting up a touchdown run by Jackson.

  8. Erik Shackelford, sr. LB — Once again, Shackelford played well at linebacker and made stops at the line of scrimmage and in the secondary. At the beginning of the third quarter, he intercepted a pass that was tipped up into the air by Jackson. Two plays later, the Lions scored for a 34-6 lead.

  9. Jesse Tunget, sr. RG — In the fourth quarter, the Lions were running the ball with plenty of success and that was thanks to huge holes opened up by Tunget, Jacob Mills and Kevin Nichols on the right side of the line. The Lions averaged 5.7 yards per rush against a veteran defense.

  10. Mark Greene, sr. DT — With a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter, Greene shut the door on any comeback attempt when he ran past a blocker into the backfield, drilled SM West’s running back and forced a fumble that was picked up by Gee. Two plays later, it turned into a touchdown run by Reeder.

    — Rankings from Bobby Nightengale

Free State football

  1. Zack Sanders, sr. WR/CB — Sanders made a huge impact while leading the Firebirds back to the .500-mark by scoring four total touchdowns — two receiving, one pick-six and another on a punt return. He nearly had a second pick-six, but a block in the back penalty negated a would-be fifth touchdown for the two-way starter.

  2. Jax Dineen, so. RB/LB — Dineen did just about everything that Free State coach Bob Lisher could have asked of him while stepping into the starting running back role for an injured Zion Bowlin. Dineen averaged 7.6 yards per carry while running primarily between the tackles. The 5-foot 11-inch, 215-pound sophomore broke the century mark with 107 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, and added a 12-yard score on a reception from Dallas Crittenden. Dineen's lone mishap came on a fumble just shy of the goal line that took away the chance for a third touchdown.

  3. Gage Foster, sr. RB/ROLB — While Sanders and Dineen combined to score all six of Free State's touchdowns, Foster did a lot of the dirty to set them up. Foster had 54 yards on 11 carries and chipped in 33 yards on three catches. Foster also provided a spark for the Firebirds linebacking corps, and had a sack on fourth down to end SM Northwest's last drive of the first half.

  4. Jay Dineen, sr. LB/LG — Dineen made his presence felt on the Cougars' first drive with a sack that went for a loss of 10 yards. The Free State linebacker also dropped back into coverage for a pair of pass break-ups.

  5. Dallas Crittenden, sr. QB — Crittenden's stat line wasn't jaw-dropping, but it didn't need to be. The Free State quarterback tossed two touchdowns to Sanders and another to Jax Dineen, while only throwing one interception. Crittenden also gave Free State's offense a big boost in the first quarter with a 40-plus yard run.

  6. Adam Tapp, jr. DT — Tapp had a near-sack in the first half when he wrapped up SM Northwest quarterback Spencer Stewart for no gain. The Free State defensive tackle over-powered the Cougars' under-sized offensive line.

  7. Noah Kema, sr. TE/DT — Kema had a fairly quiet night on the offensive side of the ball after a 21-yard catch in the first quarter, but he played a big role in anchoring the Firebird defensive front.

  8. Nathan Spain, jr. C — Spain helped the Firebirds control the line of scrimmage and was a big reason why Jax Dineen had large holes to run through for most of the night.

  9. Sam Hambleton, sr. NT — Hambleton and the Free State defensive line had a difficult challenge in front of them with stopping SM Northwest standout running back Xavier Perry. Hambleton was not fazed, though, as he helped the Firebirds bottle up Perry for 39 yards on 13 touches.

  10. Chase Houk, sr. LT — Houk sprung Crittenden free with a critical block on his long run in the first quarter, and also kept the senior quarterback upright by protecting his blind side.

    — Rankings from Chris Duderstadt

    Lawrence High School receiver Ekow Boye-Doe (12) catches a pass in the 1st quarter to set up a Lions touchdown in their win against Shawnee Mission West Friday night at LHS.

    Lawrence High School receiver Ekow Boye-Doe (12) catches a pass in the 1st quarter to set up a Lions touchdown in their win against Shawnee Mission West Friday night at LHS. by Mike Yoder/Special to the Journal-World


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Football Game Tape: Week Three

The first season of the Sunflower League/Suburban Conference Showdown turned into a beatdown with Missouri winning all 11 football games against Kansas teams.

Both of the games involving Lawrence High and Free State were close for the first 30 minutes until their opponents pulled away.

The Lions saw their momentum swing against them when a run to the five-yard line by Trey Moore was called back by a holding penalty. Two plays later, they lost QB Dante' Jackson to cramps in his leg and the offense never recovered in a 28-7 loss at Lee's Summit West.

Despite the loss, the Lions were thrilled with their defensive effort. The Titans had 404 yards of offense, but had trouble finding the end zone until midway through the second half because of red-zone stops by Lawrence's defense.

"Our defense stepped up big time," Moore said. "When the offense didn’t score or anything, the defense would stop them and they would give us hope. Defense just did a great job overall."

Free State's football team trailed by three points at halftime, but had trouble keeping up after a 93-yard touchdown pass in a 34-21 loss at Park Hill.

When the Firebirds were looking for key stops on defense, they just couldn't convert to get off of the field in the fourth quarter. On a fourth-and-one, Park Hill running back Dorian Clayton ran for a 26-yard touchdown. In the final minutes, a 3rd-and-10 turned into a 33-yard pass.

The Firebirds had some nice drives offensively, but were limited by sacks and penalties, which forced some punts. But one of the big positives was the growth of their run game against a tough Park Hill defense. Free State ran for 162 yards on 37 carries, averaging 4.4 yards per attempt.

Now for a look ahead to next week:

Free State at Shawnee Mission Northwest on Friday at 7 p.m. — The Cougars (0-3) lost 50-14 against Grandview (Mo.) last week. They are led by senior running back Xavier Perry, who has rushed for five touchdowns this season. He had 32 carries for 230 yards and three scores against LHS in Week One. Defensively, they have struggled, allowing at least 48 points in all three games.

Shawnee Mission West at Lawrence High on Friday at 7 p.m. — Featuring one of the top quarterbacks in the Sunflower League with Zach Witters, the Vikings (2-1) scored at least 40 points in their first two games before a 35-21 loss against Blue Springs (Mo.) last week. Witters has thrown for 628 yards and six touchdowns, and rushed for 304 yards and four scores. Montell Madlock leads the defense with 28 tackles.

Lawrence High junior Dante Jackson grabs onto the ankle of Lee's Summit West receiver Kevin Knox (31) while Santino Gee (25) comes to help with the tackle during their game Friday night in Lee's Summit, Mo. The Lions fell to the Titans, 28-7, and drop their record to 2-1 on the season.

Lawrence High junior Dante Jackson grabs onto the ankle of Lee's Summit West receiver Kevin Knox (31) while Santino Gee (25) comes to help with the tackle during their game Friday night in Lee's Summit, Mo. The Lions fell to the Titans, 28-7, and drop their record to 2-1 on the season. by John Young


If you're new to the blog, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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. Erik Shackelford, sr. LB — On defense, it seemed like Shackelford was making a tackle on every play, sprinting from sideline to sideline for stops. Using his speed to beat blockers to spots on the field, Shackelford had one tackle for loss, one tackle at the line of scrimmage and he drew a few holding penalties.

  2. James Reeder, sr. DB — With the Titans driving at the beginning of the second quarter, Reeder jumped up and grabbed an interception in the end zone. Along with his grab, he made some key stops in the run game, making tackles in open space.

  3. Jake Unruh, sr. DE — Unruh made at least two tackles for a loss, including a sack in the first quarter. Playing only on one side of the ball has helped him make a big difference on the defensive line, forcing extra attention with his ability to push aside blockers.

  4. Dante’ Jackson, jr. QB/CB — On the third play from scrimmage in the second half, Jackson faked a handoff to running back Trey Moore and sprinted up the middle — virtually untouched — for a 66-yard touchdown run. He exited midway through the third quarter after cramping up on a scramble, finishing with 105 rushing yards on 10 attempts.

  5. Clarence King, soph. WR/CB — Right after the Titans scored a touchdown in the third quarter for a 14-7 lead, King returned a kick 55 yards and gave the Lions the ball across midfield. King added one catch for six yards and had some great blocks on the perimeter to help his running backs.

  6. Azariah LeBrun, sr. LB — With the Titans in the red zone in the first quarter, LeBrun stepped up with a sack, which eventually helped force a missed field goal. He had at least three more tackles near the line of scrimmage, helping out Lawrence’s run defense.

  7. Trey Moore, sr. RB — Moore had to fight for every yard against Lee’s Summit West’s defense, which put extra attention on him. Playing through a hand injury, he finished with 91 yards on 20 attempts, not including a 37-yard run called back on a holding penalty.

  8. BJ Murry, sr. DT — The 5-foot-6, 199-pound defensive lineman did a nice job clogging running lanes in the first half, allowing linebackers to run to the ball without having to fight through blockers.

  9. Santino Gee, sr. LB — In the secondary, Gee made a few key stops when he was the last man to beat. When the Titans went to their run game, Gee made a couple of nice tackles in open space.

  10. Samuel Bart, soph. DL — At the end of the first quarter, the Titans were facing 3rd-and-7 from the 29-yard line looking for their first score. On a pitch, Bart stuffed the play in the backfield for a five-yard loss. The next play turned into an interception by Reeder.

    — Rankings from Bobby Nightengale

Free State football

  1. Zack Sanders, sr. WR/CB — Showed off his explosiveness with an 82-yard punt return touchdown in the first quarter on a reverse, taking a handoff from Zion Bowlin. Once defenders had to change direction, there was no chance they were going to chase down Sanders. Once again, he was dominant on offense with eight catches for 65 yards.

  2. Jax Dineen, so. RB/LB — The Sunflower League’s version of Jerome Bettis, Dineen uses his 5-11, 215-pound frame to bounce off of tacklers. He had nine carries for 47 yards, including a three-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Along with his strong runs, he had several strong tackles at the line of scrimmage while playing linebacker.

  3. Jay Dineen, sr. LB/LG — Dineen probably made his biggest impact of the season at linebacker with several tackles in the backfield. He had a half-sack on the Park Hill’s first drive and didn’t stop from there, including three tackles in a four-play stretch in the third quarter when the Trojans drove into FSHS territory.

  4. David Johnson, jr. LB — A heat-seeking missile at linebacker, Johnson was everywhere on Saturday making plays. That included a tackle on a 58-yard kick return by Park Hill, likely saving a touchdown. During one drive in the second quarter, he made two tackles at the line of scrimmage, helping force a punt.

  5. Zion Bowlin, sr. RB/DB — Bowlin was given some nice holes by his offensive line and he made the most of them. The 5-foot-9 senior rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, sprinting past defenders on his 31-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. However, he injured his ankle on Free State’s first play in the second half and he didn’t take another snap at running back.

  6. Noah Kema, sr. DT/TE — Kema fought past blockers on his way to 1.5 sacks and at least four tackles at the line of scrimmage or in the backfield. His only negative was on his seven-yard catch in the first quarter, fumbling after crossing the first down marker, but luckily, he was able to recover the ball.

  7. Drew Wise, sr. LB/TE — The 6-foot-2, 245-pound long-snap specialist rushed off of the edge for a sack in the first quarter and he showed off his speed by making a tackle on a bubble screen pass.

  8. Bo Miller, jr. WR/FS — When the Firebirds were looking for a big play in the first half, Miller caught a 27-yard pass to help his team near midfield, eventually leading to a touchdown run by Bowlin. On defense, Miller had a nice tackle in the fourth quarter.

  9. Dallas Crittenden, sr. QB — Facing a strong pass rush, Crittenden did a nice job of moving his feet around in the pocket and finding throwing angles. He completed 11 of his 17 passes for 114 yards and he had a 47-yard run in the fourth quarter, which set up Jax Dineen’s touchdown run.

  10. Vani Martinez, jr. DB — Martinez made some nice tackles on defense and special teams, doing a great job of staying in his lane on a kick return to make a tackle. He’s improving at blowing up plays on short screen passes.

    — Rankings from Bobby Nightengale

    Zion Bowlin lunges into the end zone for a score in the first half Friday as Free State played Park Hill in Kansas City, Mo.

    Zion Bowlin lunges into the end zone for a score in the first half Friday as Free State played Park Hill in Kansas City, Mo. by Kevin Anderson/Special to the Journal-World


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Football Game Tape: Week Two

Following their first win of the season, the main message from Free State High football players was they were happy but not satisfied.

The Firebirds dominated on both sides of the ball in a 38-0 victory at Shawnee Mission South, holding the Raiders to only 113 yards of offense. For their own offense, the Firebirds were a little up and down, but they scored on three of their first four drives of the second half.

"Any time you put up a goose egg, that’s a good thing," senior Daniel Bryant said. "We still know we can get better. Less penalties and play better football."

After a scoreless second quarter, the Firebirds heard plenty from their coaches in the locker room at halftime, but they responded well to everything that was said. It's not easy to keep focus for an entire game when it has a blowout feel to it, but Free State coaches know it's necessary to keep pushing.

"Some games we’re going to need it for 48 minutes like we did last week," FSHS coach Bob Lisher said. "Luckily, we didn’t this week."

Entering Friday night, the biggest questions for Lawrence High's football team were how could they stop SM North quarterback Will Schneider and keep pace on offense?

The Lions answered both questions emphatically, bringing pressure with their defensive fronts and providing strong coverage in the secondary. In addition to strong defense, they recorded 611 yards of offense in a 52-36 victory.

Lawrence's competition will only become tougher in the next two weeks, but one good sign for the future was the passing game. Dante' Jackson completed 11 passes for 180 yards, which should help open up the run game against tougher defensive fronts.

Now for a look ahead to next week, which marks the first-ever matchups in the Sunflower League/Suburban Conference showdown:

Free State at Park Hill on Friday at 7 p.m. — A team filled with plenty of Div. I talent, the Trojans (2-2) have suffered a couple of losses against top teams in Missouri. Their leading tackler, four-star defensive end Chester Graves, is the top-ranked recruit in the KC area, boasting offers from KU, K-State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa and more. Park Hill's top linebacker Seven Wilson is also drawing interest after breaking the school record for tackles last season. Offensively, the Trojans are led by junior QB Billy Maples, who is completing 70 percent of his passes for 655 yards and five TDs.

Lawrence High at Lee's Summit West on Friday at 7 p.m. — The Titans (2-2) have only suffered losses against teams ranked in the top-10 in the state, including a one point loss to #2-ranked Blue Springs. In the first three games, senior QB Cole Taylor was 32-of-66 for 568 passing yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Zach Shanholtzer is the top receiver with 12 catches for 209 yards and 3 TDs. On defense, Spencer Etters is averaging nearly 14 tackles per game.

Free State High senior Sam Hambleton (56) leads the charge as they Firebird defense stops Shawnee Mission South quarterback Deonte Carroll (7) behind the line during their game Friday evening in Overland Park. The Firebirds jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead and never looked back, winning 38-0.

Free State High senior Sam Hambleton (56) leads the charge as they Firebird defense stops Shawnee Mission South quarterback Deonte Carroll (7) behind the line during their game Friday evening in Overland Park. The Firebirds jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead and never looked back, winning 38-0. by John Young


If you're new to the blog, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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. Dante' Jackson, jr. QB/CB — All four of Jackson's touchdowns came on the ground, but the quarterback made some big strides in the passing game from Week 1 to Week 2. Jackson did have one interception, but he was fairly accurate outside of that — completing 11 of 17 passes for 180 yards. The junior QB wasn't afraid to air it out to receivers like Pakow Boye-Doe either. Jackson also rushed for 105 on five carries.

  2. Trey Moore, sr. RB — Moore has made it look easy in the backfield in the first two weeks. The 5-foot, 10-inch 180-pound back rushed for 237 yards on 28 carries and three touchdowns, and would have had a fourth score on a 99-yard run if it had not been for a holding penalty.

  3. Jake Unruh, sr. DL — Unruh led a much-needed pass rush for the Lions to make SM North quarterback Will Schneider uncomfortable in the pocket. The senior defensive end had two sacks, and also blocked a pooch punt by Schneider.

  4. Clarence King, so. CB — When Schneider looked like he was getting in a rhythm after struggling on the Indians' first few possessions, King halted SM North's best drive with an interception when SM North was on the fringe of the red zone.

  5. BJ Murry, sr. DL — When Unruh wasn't wreaking havoc in the backfield, Murry and fellow defensive tackle Mark Greene were applying pressure up the middle. Murry had a sack in the first quarter to help set the tone defensively for LHS.

  6. Jacob Mills, jr. OL — Mills anchored an offensive line that dominated the line of scrimmage from wire-to-wire. The LHS center helped pave large holes for Moore, Jackson and backup running back James Reeder to run through all night.

  7. Cole Brungardt, sr. K — Brungardt has been automatic on his extra points this season, and he had the chance to show off his leg on Friday. Brungardt drilled a 37-yard field goal to end the first half, and it had the distance to be good from much longer.

  8. Pakow Boye-Doe, jr. WR — Boye-Doe and the Lions receiving corps haven't needed to make a big impact in the first two weeks with Moore and Jackson doing damage on the ground. Boye-Doe did his best to prove that the LHS wideouts have big-play making ability as well by hauling in six receptions for 64 yards.

  9. Mark Greene, sr. DL — Greene burst through the Indians offensive line for a big tackle-for-loss on the opening drive of the game. Greene's quickness at defensive tackle had the Indians O-Line on their toes. The Indians had 13 penalties for 100 yards, and several of those were false start or holding calls on the SM North offensive line.

  10. Caleb Mondi, so. WR — Mondi only had one catch, but he made the most of it. The sophomore wideout caught a pass from Jackson right by the LHS sideline on a quick out route, but he turned on the jets to turn it into a 76-yard touchdown.

    — Rankings from Chris Duderstadt

Free State football

  1. Vani Martinez, jr. FS — Martinez has certainly made a name for himself in the past two weeks with big hits. But he did more than that last week, grabbing two interceptions in the second half and forcing a fumble on kickoff coverage. His first interception was tipped in the air by teammate David Johnson and Martinez swooped in for the snag. He also made some nice tackles at the line of scrimmage on run defense.

  2. Gage Foster, jr. LB/RB — Every time there was pressure on the quarterback or a stop in the backfield, Foster was usually nearby. I counted at least two tackles for loss and a pass broken up in the backfield. Then there was his interception and a fumble he forced on a kickoff. On offense, he had 36 rushing yards and 11 receiving yards.

  3. Zion Bowlin, sr. RB/SS — The powerful 5-foot-9, 200-pound running back didn’t break many long runs (he had a 28-yarder during the first quarter) but he kept the chains moving, finishing with 85 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. In space, he’s tough to stop because he runs with such force.

  4. Zack Sanders, sr. WR/CB — One week after breaking a few school single-game records, Sanders caught three passes for 55 yards, including a nice 27-yard touchdown grab. On the touchdown, Sanders reached over a defender for the score. Defensively, he made some strong tackles in open space, defended well in coverage and grabbed an interception on an overthrow.

  5. Daniel Bryant, sr. WR/CB — He found holes in the defense and made the Raiders pay with some big grabs, ending the game with five receptions for 84 yards. He had a 28-yard catch on the final play of the third quarter, pushed out of bounds at the one-yard line. In coverage, Bryant blanketed SM South receivers, forcing incompletions.

  6. Dallas Crittenden, sr. QB — Crittenden made some smart decision on read options, running for 15 yards and two touchdowns on five attempts. For the second straight week, he was strong in the pocket — his offensive line gave him plenty of protection on a few throws — finishing with 175 yards on 12-of-19 passing for a touchdown and interception.

  7. Jay Dineen, sr. LB/LG — He was all over the field on defense, punishing linemen to fight his way into the backfield for at least a few tackles at the line of scrimmage. On SM South’s first series, Dineen broke into the backfield and forced a fumble. But on the flip side, he had two personal foul penalties for a horse-collar tackle and roughing the passer within two plays of each other.

  8. Sam Hambleton, sr. DL — Stuffing the middle of the field, Hambleton was a big reason why the Raiders only averaged 2.8 yards per rushing attempt. He clogged running lanes, shed blockers and was in position to make a few tackles.

  9. Jalen Nash, soph. RB — When the Raiders fumbled on a kickoff return, Nash grabbed the ball and nearly took it to the end zone before he made an illegal forward lateral trying to flip the ball to a teammate for a touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Nash had seven rushing attempts for 37 yards.

  10. Drew Wise, sr. LB/TE — Wise jumped on a fumble on SM South’s second play from scrimmage, which turned into a six-yard touchdown run by Bowlin. He also made strong snaps at long snapper, and on offense, he made a 13-yard catch in the first quarter.

    — Rankings from Bobby Nightengale

    James Murray (19) right, sacks Shawnee Mission North quarterback Will Schneider in the Lawrence Lions win against Shawnee Mission North Friday night at LHS.

    James Murray (19) right, sacks Shawnee Mission North quarterback Will Schneider in the Lawrence Lions win against Shawnee Mission North Friday night at LHS. by Mike Yoder


In case you missed it, I posted a blog about all of the former Lawrence High and Free State football players competing at the collegiate level. Here is a quick look at all of their statistics: http://bit.ly/2c4fDoR.


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Alumni watch: College football

College football season is a couple of weeks old and for a long list of Lawrence natives, it means they are back on the field.

Most of these former Lawrence High and Free State players are about two weeks into their season, and here's a look at how they've been playing (stats through Sunday, Sept. 11, but some websites weren't completely up to date):

Peter Afful, Hutchinson CC (Lawrence High): DNP

Amani Bledsoe, Oklahoma (Lawrence High): 1 game, 2 assisted tackles, 1 pass breakup

Kharon Brown, Baker (Lawrence High): 3 games, 20 tackles (6 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss

Reid Buckingham, Emporia State (Free State): No stats; long snapper

Anthony Buffalomeat, Emporia State (Lawrence High): 2 games, 3 catches for 31 yards

TJ Cobbs, Ottawa (Free State): 2 games, 4 rushes for 9 yards, 1 solo tackle

Joe Dineen, Kansas (Free State): 2 games, 14 tackles (9 solo), 3 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup

Scott Frantz, Kansas State (Free State): No stats; starting at left tackle

Jalen Galloway, Highland CC (Free State): 2 games, 2 assisted tackles

Michael Georgie, Fort Scott CC (Free State): No stats

Trey Georgie, Illinois State (Lawrence High): DNP

Tanner Green, Baker (Lawrence High): 1 game, 1 assisted tackle

Cole Greenwood, Independence CC (Lawrence High): 1 game, 7 tackles (6 solo)

Drake Hofer, William Jewell (Lawrence High): 1 game, 1 catch for 24 yards and a touchdown

Ivan Hollins, Baker (Lawrence High): DNP

Tye Hughes, Baker (Free State): 2 games, 1 catch for 12 yards, 1 punt return for 14 yards, 1 kick return for 21 yards

Matt Jacobsen, Highland CC (Lawrence High): DNP

Asaph Jewsome, Baker (Lawrence High): 1 game, 1 solo tackle

Alex Jones, Pittsburg State (Lawrence High): No stats; starting at right guard

Nate Koehn, Butler CC (Lawrence High): DNP

Darian Lewis, Hutchinson CC (Free State): 1 game, 1 catch for 32 yards

Tanner Liba, Butler CC (Free State): DNP

Keith Loneker Jr., Kansas (Free State): 2 games, 2 tackles, 1 pass breakup, 1 quarterback hurry

Logan McKinney, William Jewell (Free State): DNP

Price Morgan, Air Force (Lawrence High): DNP

Joshua Seybert, Baker (Lawrence High): DNP

Kieran Severa, Drake (Lawrence High): No stats; has played in two games

Sam Skwarlo, Kansas (Free State): DNP

Brad Strauss, William Jewell (Lawrence High): 2 games, 31-for-54, 348 passing yards, 3 TD, 109 rushing yards, 2 TD

Garrett Swisher, Highland CC (Free State): DNP

Bryce Torneden, Kansas (Free State): No stats; appeared in two games primarily on special teams

Nick Williams, Independence CC (Lawrence High): DNP

Kyle Wittman, Baker (Lawrence High): No stats

JD Woods, Missouri Western (Lawrence High): DNP

Fred Wyatt, Northwestern (Free State): 2 games, 5 tackles (2 solo), 0.5 tackles for loss, 1 pass breakup


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr. If I forgot somebody (probably), please let me know and I'll add him to the list.

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Football Game Tape: Week One

Heading into the first game of the season, high school football coaches usually agree they need to see their team play a game before they can gauge how they look.

Lawrence High coach Dirk Wedd said he was entering this season with more question marks than any other season in his 18-year career. That's the result of a new no-huddle offense, platooning linemen and so many new faces at key positions.

So it probably meant a lot that the Lions could jump to a fast start and roll to a 50-20 victory over Shawnee Mission Northwest in their season opener. They scored 23 points in the first quarter via offense (Dante' Jackson and Trey Moore TD runs), special teams (Erik Shackelford blocked punt return) and defense (safety from BJ Murry).

Now, the biggest question is whether the Lions can continue what they started against top competition. Their schedule only gets harder with SM North, Lee's Summit West and SM West in the next three weeks.

Free State's football team lost a thriller against SM West, 41-40. The Firebirds were one play away from a win before the Vikings scored the game-winning touchdown with 28 seconds left, forcing two fourth-and-long plays.

Of course, the Firebirds were disappointed by the loss, but FSHS coach Bob Lisher said he was still high on his team. The Firebirds posted 40 points against a team ranked fifth in Class 6A and fought back from a 14-point deficit in the first quarter to take the lead before halftime.

“I thought our team played well and that team played well,” Lisher added. “That was a battle of two heavyweights. Those are two pretty good football teams going at it. I think we just made a few more mistakes.”

Now for a look ahead to next week:

Free State at Shawnee Mission South on Friday at 7 p.m. — After winning only one game last season, the Raiders (0-1) opened the 2016 season with a 38-7 loss to SM North. The Firebirds scrimmaged against SM South a few times throughout the summer, so there is some familiarity between the players. The Raiders, coached by longtime FSHS assistant Brett Oberzan, returned about seven starters on both sides of the ball from last year.

Shawnee Mission North at Lawrence High on Friday at 7 p.m. — The Indians (1-0) opened the season with a 38-7 win over SM South. They are led by senior quarterback Will Schneider, a four-year starter, who threw for four touchdowns last week. On the ground, Schneider ran for 120 yards and a score. The Lions know plenty about Schneider, facing him in the first round of the playoffs last season (323 passing yards, 3 TD; 120 rushing yards, TD).

Lawrence High senior running back Trey Moore (38) gives Shawnee Mission Northwest defensive back Caleb Johnson (7) a stiff arm as he breaks away to score one of his four touchdowns during their game on Friday night at LHS. The Lions jumped out to a 23-0 first quarter lead and never looked back as they defeated the Cougars, 50-20.

Lawrence High senior running back Trey Moore (38) gives Shawnee Mission Northwest defensive back Caleb Johnson (7) a stiff arm as he breaks away to score one of his four touchdowns during their game on Friday night at LHS. The Lions jumped out to a 23-0 first quarter lead and never looked back as they defeated the Cougars, 50-20. by John Young


If you're new to the blog, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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. Trey Moore, sr. RB — Even before his season-ending injury against the Cougars in the 2015 campaign, Moore was still stuck behind JD Woods in a loaded Lions backfield. Moore got his chance to shine Friday night in the season opener with 189 all-purpose yards and four total touchdowns against the Cougars.

  2. Dante' Jackson, jr. QB/CB — Jackson said he was nervous going into his first start as Lawrence's quarterback, but he sure didn't show it. Fifty-six of Jackson's 79 rushing yards came on a touchdown run on the third play of the game. Jackson also threw for one touchdown to Moore after evading pressure from the Cougars' defensive line. The LHS junior's impact wasn't just limited to offense, though. Jackson came up with an interception with less than two minutes left in the first half, and also pinned the Cougars on their own 1-yard line with his best punt of the night.

  3. Erik Shackelford, sr. LB — The Lions linebacker corps didn't miss a beat without 2016 alumnus Price Morgan thanks to the play of Shackelford. Shackelford also returned a punt that was partially blocked for a touchdown, the second straight year he's done that in the season opener.

  4. BJ Murry, sr. DL — The Cougars were pinned deep in their own territory for much of the first half, and Murry eventually made them pay for it by taking down SM Northwest quarterback Spencer Stewart in the end zone for a safety.

  5. Mark Greene, sr. DL — Greene joined Murry in stuffing the middle at defensive tackle. Greene played a big role in shutting down Cougar running back Xavier Perry for much of the first half.

  6. Jesse Tunget, sr. OL — Tunget was responsible for creating some big holes for Moore to run through. The lone returning starter from the Lawrence High offensive line also had a key block on Jackson's 56-yard touchdown run.

  7. Hunter Krom, jr. RB — Krom was a first-down machine after coming in to back up Moore. The junior running back averaged 11 yards per carry after rushing it 11 times for 88 yards.

  8. Ja'relle Dye, jr. CB — Dye played much, much bigger than his 5-foot, 3-inch frame in the Lawrence High secondary, as he broke up a couple of passes.

  9. Cole Brungardt, sr. K — Brungardt was 6-of-6 on his extra points. It capped a strong week for Brungardt after he scored a goal in the soccer team's 2-1 win over Topeka.

  10. Jaxon Malone, soph. CB — Malone stopped what could have been a third straight scoring drive by the Cougars with an interception. Although the game was virtually decided, Perry had just sprung free for a 51-yard run a couple of plays earlier to put the Cougars just outside of the red zone. Malone's interception served as a nice pick-me-up for the Lawrence defense after allowing two quick scoring drives.

    — Rankings from Chris Duderstadt

Free State football

  1. Zack Sanders, sr. WR/CB — One of the best games from a receiver in school history. Sanders was targeted early and often, finishing with a school-record 13 catches for 239 yards and a touchdown. He made one nice diving catch by his team’s sideline, but his most important catch was his TD with 1:39 left, breaking a tackle and sprinting the rest of the way to the end zone.

  2. Zion Bowlin, sr. RB/FS — Backed up against his own goal line in the second quarter, Bowlin took a handoff up the middle and — somehow — fought off enough tacklers and zoomed 97 yards to the end zone. He received a nice block downfield from Daniel Bryant. Otherwise, Bowlin made some nice tackles in the secondary. He finished with 15 carries for 136 yards and two scores.

  3. Nathan Spain, jr. C/DL — Along with some nice blocks on the offensive line, Spain grabbed a fumble (forced by Bowlin or Gage Foster) and ran the ball down his team’s sideline to the 17-yard line. He was helped out by a big block from Vani Martinez, but Spain made the most of the play once he saw the ball hit the turf.

  4. Dallas Crittenden, sr. QB — In his Free State debut, Crittenden showed plenty of poise in the pocket, delivering several big throws. He finished 19 of 29 for a school-record 300 yards and it looked like he was comfortable making zone reads out of the shot gun. His only mistakes were a pair of interceptions, but he proved his agility running around the pocket.

  5. Jax Dineen, so. RB/LB — His first carry of the season was on 4th-and-1 from the 32-yard line. Dineen bounced off of a few tackles at the line of scrimmage and ran the rest of the way for a touchdown — the first person to meet him in the end zone was his older brother. Dineen was tough to stop, ending up with eight carries for 58 yards and two touchdowns.

  6. Jay Dineen, sr. LB/LG — Dineen made some key stops in the backfield, fighting through blocks and making tackles in space. When he wasn’t making tackles, he forced SM West’s quarterback to hurry some throws. But the final drive was most frustrating to him.

    “I take 100 percent responsibility on that play,” Dineen said of the game-winning touchdown. “I need to pick up the back route. I also need to make the tackle on the quarterback out there. I’m a Div. I and that’s a Div. I play that I need to make.”

  7. Gage Foster, jr. LB — Foster showed off his speed, rushing around the edge into the backfield for some key tackles and a sack. His sack on SM West’s final drive put the Firebirds in great position (before a 4th-and-17 conversion). His biggest negative was he had one personal foul penalty called on him.

  8. Noah Kema, sr. DL/TE — Provided a nice boost on the defensive line, making a couple of stops in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage. Not counting SM West QB Zach Witters who ran for 217 yards, Kema and the Firebirds’ defense held SM West running backs to 41 yards on 18 carries.

  9. Spencer Roe, jr. RT — Facing a defense that returned about eight starters from last year, Roe was huge on the offensive line, opening up running lanes and providing strong pass protection. Throwing up 40 points against a strong defense is a good sign for the future.

  10. Jake Rittman, jr. P — He had one punt for 46 yards and some solid kickoffs. But he makes this list for saving a potential touchdown near the end of the first quarter. When SM West kick returner Kyle Harris broke free, Rittman was the last line of defense and made a nice tackle in open field.

    — Rankings from Bobby Nightengale

    Free State senior receiver Zack Sanders reaches out to haul in a fourth down pass in front of Shawnee Mission West defensive back Kirby Grigsby during their game Friday night at FSHS. The two teams went back and forth all night, but the Firebirds came up short, falling 41-40, when the Vikings connected for a 14 yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds remaining in the game.

    Free State senior receiver Zack Sanders reaches out to haul in a fourth down pass in front of Shawnee Mission West defensive back Kirby Grigsby during their game Friday night at FSHS. The two teams went back and forth all night, but the Firebirds came up short, falling 41-40, when the Vikings connected for a 14 yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds remaining in the game. by John Young


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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What caught my eye: Summer football practices

In about two weeks, Lawrence High and Free State football teams will open their seasons with their first day of practice. But both schools have competed at team camps, padded camps and scrimmages throughout the summer.

In June, the two schools spent two days at the University of Kansas team camp, along with about 15 other teams around the area. They also participated in Baker University's padded team camp, which they hosted on their own fields. Along with the two city schools, Shawnee Mission East, SM South, St. Thomas Aquinas and Leavenworth were at the Baker camp. Here's some of the things that caught my eye throughout the summer, starting with the Firebirds:

The quarterback competition is becoming more clear with Dallas Crittenden as the frontrunner to start in Week One. On the last day of the Baker team camp, FSHS coach Bob Lisher said the quarterback competition would continue into the fall practices, but the QBs are ranked. As I wrote earlier in the summer, Crittenden, who transferred from Topeka Hayden, took the majority of the snaps with the first-team offense. He has a strong arm and is becoming more comfortable as a dual-threat QB.

Free State junior Gage Foster took reps with the second-team offense and played some running back on the first team, so he will likely find a role on the offense whether it's at quarterback or running back. Sophomore Jordan Preston has worked with the JV offense, giving him regular reps.

The Firebirds should feature a strong defense, anchored by Jay Dineen at middle linebacker. If the end of last season was any indication, once they became more comfortable in their "50" defense, they thrived. Some players are in new roles, but they have plenty of star power returning in Kansas commit Dineen, Zack Sanders, Daniel Bryant, Zion Bowlin and Noah Kema.

In the backfield, Bowlin and Foster appear to be in line for the most carries. Of course, that could always change because both of them have big roles on defense and don't want to exhaust themselves. But they lined up the most with the first team offense. Jax Dineen, Craig Travis and Gabe Del Valle should have the opportunity to work their way into the offense, too.

The Firebirds will have a nice mix of returners on the offensive line. The Firebirds bring back Chase Houk, Sam Hambleton and Jay Dineen. All three of them started for the majority of last season and continuity is a big piece for any offensive line.


Now for thoughts on Lawrence High:

Dante' Jackson is making steady progress at quarterback. The 5-foot-7 junior looked better and better as the summer continued. He showed off his playmaking skills last season as a punt returner and slot receiver, but obviously the biggest adjustment is learning to throw and run an offense. Along with learning the position for the first time, he will be asked to run a no-huddle offense. But if the enthusiasm by his teammates is any clue, he should be more than ready by the first game on Sept. 2.

Speaking of Jackson, he showed a nice connection with his receivers, in particular Ekow Boye-Doe. Obviously summer scrimmages don't exactly translate to games, but Boye-Doe was on fire every time I saw him play. He made some nice catches over the middle and caught some passes through traffic. Harrison King and Jalen Dudley also made some nice plays at receiver.

Opposing coaches were raving about the potential of senior defensive lineman Jacob Unruh. With the Lions moving to platoons for the first time, Unruh can save all of his energy for the defensive side of the ball. He wrecked havoc on the limited contact scrimmages, shedding blockers and finding his way into the backfield. Along with Unruh, senior BJ Murry looked strong on the defensive line.

Watching younger players turn into seniors, it's interesting to see who turns into the vocal leaders of the team. On offense, one of the loudest voices was senior running back Trey Moore, who missed several games at the end of last year because of a fractured scapula in his left shoulder. Moore was a great backup running back for the past two seasons, and should be prime for a big season. On defense, senior Cade Burghart isn't as vocal as some of his teammates, but sets the tone by showing his younger teammates the right way to complete drills and everything else.


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Lawrence High boys hoops advances to state semifinals; Morgan leads player rankings

Among the eight boys basketball state tournament classes, two of the top seeded teams lost in the first round.

For Lawrence High's boys basketball team, it's not easy playing in the 3:00 p.m. game because there's not much energy in the gym. It's not easy playing a team that's unfamiliar. And of course, it's not easy to play a team with nothing to lose as the eight seed.

The Lions didn't have their best game, but the state tournament is all about surviving and advancing, and that's what they did in a 55-46 win against Dodge City on Thursday at Koch Arena in Wichita.

"It’s a sense of relief in a way," LHS coach Mike Lewis said. "You should be able to enjoy it a little bit more, but I’ll be honest with you, it’s just more relief. Had a lot of friends say, ‘Enjoy the moment.’ We’re trying to enjoy the moment but it’s a relief to just get that one out of the way. The 3:00 game, the 1-8 matchup, we can kind of go on and on about that."

The Lions were led by seniors Price Morgan (22 points, six rebounds) and Justin Roberts (18 points, four assists). No surprise it was the two guys who started for the Lions on last season's state runner-up team.

"They were very loose (before the game) and that starts with top down," Lewis said. "If you look at Justin and Price, and if they were kind of wound up and tight, how that could trickle down."

Now for a look ahead to the state semifinal games:

#1 Lawrence (21-2) vs. #4 Wichita Southeast (19-4) at 4:45 p.m. — It's a rematch of the 2008 state title game, when the Golden Buffaloes won by 21 points. Wichita Southeast advanced to the semifinals with a 78-61 victory against Olathe East on Thursday. Senior point guard Jerrick Harding scored a ridiculous 42 points, two short of the Class 6A state tournament record. What makes him so dangerous is his ability to score from anywhere on the court, his speed and his ball handling to dribble past help defenders. The Lions are plenty familiar with him. Against LHS, Harding scored 41 points in the first round of the Topeka Invitational Tournament last season. This year, he has help with sophomore wing Isreal Barnes, a transfer from Sunrise Christian prep, who scored 20 points against O-East.

#2 Blue Valley Northwest (19-4) vs. #3 Shawnee Mission North (19-4) at 8:15 p.m. — The Huskies moved on from the quarterfinals with a 70-51 win over Wichita South. Star guard Darien Jackson scored 15 points with a few highlight dunks, two blocks from behind at the rim, and six steals. Joseph Pleasant added a team-high 16 points in the victory. SM North knocked off the defending state champions, Wichita East, in a thrilling 55-52 victory. The Indians led by 15 points early in the fourth quarter before East had two shot attempts to tie in the final minute. Michael Weathers led with 24 points and his twin, Marcus, had 21 points.


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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 boys basketball

  1. Price Morgan, sr. — It’s hard to find someone playing better than Morgan in the past few weeks. He scored 17 of his game-high 22 points in the first half, including 13 of Lawrence’s 18 points in the second quarter. He added six rebounds and two steals. Morgan said his big first half felt a little “quieter” than his 18-point first half in the City Showdown two weeks ago.

    “He was solid as he has been now for a few weeks,” LHS coach Mike Lewis said. “We needed him to be. That’s the type of kid who steps up in the state tournament. He’s physical, which is great against Dodge City. He can handle the physicality. He can finish. He can play in space. Just a really tough basketball player.”

  2. Justin Roberts, sr. — Hard to have a better start than Roberts in the first two minutes, scoring on a transition layup while being fouled and drilling a three-pointer from the top of the arc. His shot was on and off throughout the contest (6-of-14, 2-of-8 from three) but he did a good job of helping the Lions fight through Dodge City’s zone defense. He had 18 points, four rebounds and four assists.

  3. Jackson Mallory, jr. — Mallory scored all seven of his points in the second half, but his biggest plays were on the defensive end of the court. Despite running into a little foul trouble early in the second half, he had a game-high eight rebounds and five steals.

  4. Fred Brou, sr. — On offense, Brou had a little trouble getting into a rhythm. One attempt for a dunk just slipped out of his hand. But he was big on defense, blocking three shots — two of them into press row. He added four points, three rebounds and two assists.

    None by Journal-World HS



  5. Anthony Harvey, sr. — Harvey had a gash his elbow from the first play of the game, colliding with a ref. He was forced to change jerseys to 15 because of the blood. His shot never dropped, missing three triples, but he had two rebounds and two assists.

  6. Kobe Buffalomeat, jr. — Using his size inside, Buffalomeat scored on a layup near the end of the first quarter. He also had a block in 13 minutes on the court.

  7. Braden Solko, jr. — In the first half, Solko was averaging about a foul per minute when he was on the court. He made a layup in the third quarter, pump-faking a defender in the air for an open look.

  8. Noah Butler, fr. — In four minutes, Butler didn’t attempt any shots but he grabbed two rebounds and blocked a shot at the rim.

    — Next up: 4:45 p.m. Friday vs. Wichita Southeast in 6A state semifinals. Record: 21-2.

As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Free State and Lawrence High boys and girls hoops sweep into sub-state finals

For the first time since 2007, Free State and Lawrence High are sending both of its boys and girls basketball teams into the sub-state championship games.

It's a credit to all of the teams for having such strong seasons — all four teams will finish the year with winning records.

Free State's boys basketball team (15-6) had the closest first-round game among city teams, winning 54-52 against Junction City on a putback by senior forward Chrision Wilburn at the buzzer.

For Free State's girls, the Firebirds cruised to a 50-17 victory over Wichita East by holding the Aces to just six points in the first half. Looking for their first trip to state since 2010, it's the seventh straight year the Firebirds (14-7) have advanced to the sub-state finals.

It's hard to tell, but Lawrence High's boys basketball team (19-2) had to fight for its 80-62 rout over KC Wyandotte, finally pulling away in the fourth quarter. Once the Lions were ranked No. 1 team in the state, they've had a target on their back and they know they'll get the best from every opponent they play.

Lawrence's girls basketball team (12-9) earned a 60-48 victory against Shawnee Mission East, using a 12-2 run in the fourth quarter to create some breathing room. Credit the Lions, who are playing without leading scorer E'lease Stafford (12 points per game), for finding a way to win without her.

Now for a look ahead to all of the sub-state championship games:

Free State girls basketball at Washburn Rural (16-5) at 7 p.m. Friday — The Firebirds handed the Junior Blues one of their five losses during the third-place game of the Firebird Winter Classic at the end of January, winning 53-36. The Junior Blues, who won a share of the Centennial League title, are led by Carly Bachelor (14.4 points per game, six vs. Free State in January) and Lauren Biggs (10.0 points per game, 10 vs. Free State). After facing Free State once, Washburn Rural has its eyes set on slowing down FSHS junior Madison Piper, who scored 23 points in the first meeting.

“They’ve got one of the best players around in Madison Piper,” Washburn Rural coach Kevin Bordewick told the Topeka Capital Journal. “She’s a player who can kind of do whatever she wants and score the ball, and she’s also a tough defender. So obviously she’s a big concern. But they’ve also got really nice, fast, good-shooting guards. They’ve got a lot of good role players. They’re just a tough team.”

Shawnee Mission West (11-10) at Lawrence High girls basketball at 7 p.m. Friday — During Sunflower League play, the Vikings won in overtime at LHS, 58-56, on Jan. 12. It was early in the season, and both teams are much improved for the rematch. SM West is led by star center Kenzie Loe, who led the league with 20 points per game and was second in the league with 9.5 rebounds, only trailing LHS freshman Chisom Ajekwu (9.6 rebounds per game). Loe was in foul trouble for the first meeting, but still found a way to score a game-high 27 points.

Free State boys basketball at Wichita Southeast (17-4) at 6 p.m. Saturday — In the final game in Southeast's historic gym (a new one opens next year), the Firebirds will try to slow down one of the best backcourts in the state. Southeast senior guard Jerrick Harding led the City League in scoring for the third straight year (26.5 points) and sophomore Israel Barnes, a transfer from Sunrise Christian prep, averages another 18.5 points. Wichita Heights coach Joe Auer told the Wichita Eagle that Harding “is every bit as terrific of a scorer as Conner Frankamp and Perry Ellis.” The last time the Firebirds traveled to Southeast, they lost by 15 points in the sub-state finals in 2014, though none of the current FSHS players were in that game.

Shawnee Mission Northwest (9-12) at Lawrence High boys basketball at 6 p.m. Saturday — The Cougars are playing some of their best basketball of the season, winning three of their past four games. LHS won the first meeting less than a month ago, 59-54, on Feb. 9. It was LHS senior point guard Justin Roberts' first game back from his shoulder injury. With a strong group of seniors, Dylan Dirks, Ferninand Hardy and Jalen LyDay, the Cougars have confidence they can pull off an upset. "I'm hungry. I want to get them," LyDay told the Shawnee Dispatch of playing Lawrence. "Last game was so close. I feel like if we play the way we did (Thursday), I think we can go get them."


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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.

Free State girls basketball

  1. Madison Piper, jr. — Piper scored eight of her game-high 17 points in the third quarter, taking advantage of Wichita East’s switch to a man-to-man defense. When she was double-teamed, she made the smart passes, dishing four assists. She also had two steals and two rebounds.

  2. Peyton Brown, sr. — In the first half, the Firebirds looked a little tight on offense — nerves that come from playing in the first playoff game against a team they haven’t played. But Brown just used the opportunity to assert herself on offense. She scored 10 points and added five rebounds, making strong cuts without the ball to the rim.

  3. Caiti Schlesener, sr. — Sometimes a streaky shooter, Schlesener found her rhythm on Wednesday. She shot 3-of-6 from deep and had no problem driving to the rim when Wichita East tried to guard the three-point line on her way to 15 points.

  4. Cameryn Thomas, soph. — Thomas only scored two points but made such a big impact in every other phase of the game. She crashed the glass and frustrated ball handlers with her full-court pressure, ending up with seven rebounds, four steals and a block. As point guard, she had three assists.

  5. Hannah Walter, sr. — When the Firebirds face a zone defense, Walter essentially becomes the team’s point guard. Get the ball to Walter, and let her make the smart play. She had four points, three assists and seven rebounds.

  6. Jaycie Bishop, jr. — Sporting a new hair color, Bishop used her strong defensive instincts to grab two steals. She missed two shots, including a potential buzzer-beater in the first quarter, but she had a nice assist in the second quarter, setting up Brown for a layup.

  7. Erin Cushing, soph. — Always bring a nice boost of energy to the court when she’s on the court. She missed all three of her shot attempts, but had two rebounds and assisted on a three-pointer by Schlesener.

  8. Sophia Jadlow, jr. — Grabbed two tough rebounds in the final minutes and made two free throws.

  9. Calli Bowen, jr. — Made a nice pass to Jadlow in the final minute, earning Jadlow a trip to the free throw line.

  10. Molly Murray, soph. — Murray was called for a foul while playing some tough defense in the post, making the mistake of putting both hands on the ball-handler.

  11. Sara Pavlyak, fr. — She didn’t record any stats with the running clock, but provided some nice stability while dribbling in the back court.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Friday at Washburn Rural. Record: 14-7.

Lawrence High boys basketball

  1. Price Morgan, sr. — It’s hard to find a player who is on a better run in the past few weeks than Morgan. He’s just playing in a rhythm and so difficult to slow down. He scored 11 points in the first quarter, including seven straight at one point. He finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and a steal.

  2. Justin Roberts, sr. — High school basketball’s version of Mariano Rivera, Roberts knows how to close games out for the Lions. He scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, drilling shots and making smart passes on drives into the paint. He’s also been strong at the free throw line, shooting 23-of-25 in the past three games.

  3. Jackson Mallory, jr. — The more you watch Mallory, the greater appreciation you have for his skills. He’s one of those players that just does a little of everything to help his team. He finished just shy of a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds, adding five assists.

  4. Fred Brou, sr. — Brou was ready to play in the first quarter and it showed right away. He scored seven of his 12 points in the first eight minutes, converting on two and-ones including a tip-slam while being fouled. He added five rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one more dunk in the fourth quarter.

  5. Anthony Harvey, sr. — Credit to Harvey, when his shot wasn’t dropping, to turn his attention to the defensive end. He played solid defense and grabbed eight rebounds. On offense, Harvey scored a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the first quarter, then opened the second quarter with a no-hesistation three-pointer from the wing.

  6. Kobe Buffalomeat, jr. — Wyandotte essentially played five guards on the court, and Buffalomeat used his size to take full advantage. He scored eight points, waiting for his teammates to deliver him passes in the paint. Buffalomeat added three rebounds and dished a nice assist to Morgan for a layup.

  7. Braden Solko, jr. — Solko provided a huge boost off of the bench, grabbing two rebounds and making two free throws. He showed off some nice handles when dribbling in transition and played his usual hard-nosed defense.

  8. Noah Butler, fr. — In the final minutes, Butler tried to bring the house down by driving baseline and dunking over his defender. Instead, he drew the foul and sunk both free throws. He added a blocked shot and played good defense on the perimeter. His only problem was he played a little sped up on offense when he came off of the bench in the second quarter.

  9. Austin Miller (jr.), Trey Quartlebaum (fr.), Brett Chapple (fr.), Jake Rajewski (soph.) — All of them entered in the final minutes when the Lions pushed their lead to 20 points. Miller deflected a shot on defense, but none of them attempted any shots.

    — Next up: 6 p.m. Saturday vs. SM Northwest. Record: 19-2.

It's always cool to see how Lawrence natives are performing at the collegiate level. I wrote up an alumni watch at the beginning of December, and will have another update in the next few weeks.

But one play from Free State and Bishop Seabury alum Khadre Lane, now a freshman at Campbell University, caught my eye on Twitter and I had to share below. No doubt, it's the same athleticism that made him such a force at the high school level on the basketball court and football field.

None by Campbell Athletics


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Free State basketball sweeps SM West heading into City Showdown

With only one regular season game remaining, it's the time of the year when every high school basketball team wants to be playing its best basketball of the season.

Free State High's boys basketball team showed off its offensive potential in a 77-66 victory over Shawnee Mission West on Tuesday.

The Firebirds were dominant in the first quarter, scoring on 13 of their first 16 possessions. Their only weakness is putting away teams when they jump to quick starts.

Heading into tonight's City Showdown, it'll be important for the Firebirds to learn their lessons from the first rivalry game. Free State had a lead at halftime before watching Lawrence High go on a big run in the second half.

"We’ve been playing well, we think," FSHS senior point guard Kristian Rawls said. "Coach (Sam) Stroh always talks about we need to be playing our best basketball right about now, which I think we are or close to (it). This will be good for us."

Free State's girls basketball team picked up a big win against Shawnee Mission West, 77-64 in double-overtime. It was a chance for some revenge after losing to the Vikings in the sub-state title game last season, but it was important to win out a close game after several close losses.

The Firebirds are fighting for the No. 2 seed in their sub-state bracket, and each win gives them a potential opportunity at earning an extra home game for the postseason.


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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.

Free State girls basketball

  1. Madison Piper, jr. — The best players step up in big games and that’s exactly what Piper did on Tuesday. On offense, Piper scored a game-high 27 points, making all 12 of her free throws. On top of that, Piper drew the toughest defensive assignment, guarding SM West center Kenzie Loe, the league’s leading scorer. She didn’t allow easy buckets in the paint and was dominant on the glass, grabbing a game-high 15 rebounds.

  2. Cameryn Thomas, soph. — Thomas turned her game up a notch in the final minutes, scoring 10 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter and two overtimes. She added four rebounds, two assists and two steals. It always seems like she gets stronger as the game goes on, frustrating opponents with her full-court pressure.

  3. Jaycie Bishop, jr. — When the Firebirds needed a big bucket, Bishop delivered from behind the arc. She scored 13 points, knocking down three triples. She added two assists and was at her best defensively, closing out on shooters and playing strong help-side defense.

  4. Caiti Schlesener, sr. — Schlesener does a good job of speeding up her opponents to an uncomfortable speed. Along with Thomas, she helped force four straight turnovers in the second overtime on the perimeter. Schlesener grabbed three steals, dished two assists and scored 10 points.

  5. Hannah Walter, sr. — On offense, the Firebirds went through Walter, who dished three assists, including the final go-ahead score on a three by Bishop. She added four rebounds and a steal, making her usual hustle plays.

  6. Peyton Brown, sr. — Before fouling out in the first overtime, Brown did a good job of finding open space in the paint. She scored 11 points, going 7-of-12 from the free throw line. She added five rebounds, grabbing tough rebounds in traffic.

  7. Jaelyn Two Hearts, soph. — Two Hearts couldn’t find her offensive rhythm, missing two three-point attempts. She added a rebound.

    — Next up: 5:30 p.m. Friday vs. Lawrence High. Record: 13-6.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Hunter Gudde, sr. — On one drive in the first quarter, it looked like Gudde lost control of the ball on his way to attempting a layup and the ball still found a way through the hoop. It was just one of those days. Gudde scored a team-high 19 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting. He added four rebounds and four assists.

  2. Darian Lewis, sr. — In his first varsity start, Lewis was strong with the ball and knew to be in the right place at the right time. He scored 14 points and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, scoring a few putbacks. On defense, he drew a couple of charges.

  3. Kristian Rawls, sr. — Rawls scored 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including his first in-game dunk during the third quarter. Yet, he might have been even better defensively. He grabbed three steals, two rebounds and blocked two shots.

  4. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — After missing his first two shots, Wilburn settled in and was strong in the paint. He worked around defenders for layups and had his first two in-game dunks of the season. Along with scoring 13 points, Wilburn had four rebounds and an assist.

  5. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — Playing with his usual energy, Tochtrop had six points, two rebounds and a steal. He had a nice sequence in the fourth quarter, assisting on a bucket by Gudde, then scoring three straight points.

  6. Jay Dineen, jr. — Throughout the season, Dineen has been playing with more and more confidence. He finished with six points, six rebounds and two assists.

  7. Jacob Pavlyak, jr. — Pavlyak scored four points with both buckets within a two-minute stretch in the second quarter. He grabbed one steal on defense.

  8. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — Scored on a missed free throw in the second quarter, grabbing the rebound and finishing through traffic. He added three rebounds.

  9. Garrett Lunistra, soph. — Spelling Rawls for a few minutes at point guard, Lunistra made two free throws in the second quarter. He missed a couple of shots from the field and grabbed one rebound.

  10. Cameron Clark, jr. — Playing a little sped up, Clark rushed through a couple of offensive moves in the post for a pair of turnovers. He added three rebounds, using his height in the paint to his advantage.

  11. Shannon Cordes, jr. — Cordes kept the offense flowing when he was on the court, but he didn’t attempt any shots.

  12. Simon McCaffrey (soph.), Jalan Robinson (soph.), Reece White-Downing (soph.) — All of them entered in the final minute so the seniors could exit to a big ovation. White-Downing grabbed a rebound.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Friday vs #1 Lawrence High. Record: 14-5.

Sunflower League boys basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

SM North … 10-0 … 15-4

Lawrence … 9-1 … 17-2

Olathe East … 7-3 … 15-4

Olathe South … 7-3 … 13-6

Free State … 7-3 … 14-5

Olathe North … 4-6 … 12-7

SM South … 4-6 … 9-10

SM East … 4-6 … 7-12

SM Northwest … 3-7 … 8-11

SM West … 3-7 … 6-13

Olathe Northwest … 2-8 … 7-12

Leavenworth … 0-10 … 2-17

Sunflower League girls basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

Olathe South … 9-1 … 17-1

Leavenworth … 9-1 … 15-4

SM Northwest … 8-2 … 17-2

Olathe East … 8-2 … 15-4

Free State … 6-4 … 13-6

SM West … 6-4 … 10-9

SM North … 5-5 … 8-11

Lawrence … 4-6 … 10-9

SM South … 2-8 … 5-14

SM East … 2-8 … 4-15

Olathe Northwest … 1-9 … 7-12

Olathe North … 0-10 … 2-17


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Free State hoops swept by Olathe East; Gudde and Piper lead player rankings

With sub-state approaching closer each day, Free State High girls basketball players have a different look in their eyes. Each game means a little more. Each possession is more important.

That's what makes the close losses so much more frustrating. The Firebirds suffered a 58-51 loss against Olathe East on Friday.

The Firebirds certainly didn't play poorly in the loss. They could've played a little bit better on defense. They gave up a few too many rebounds. But when an opponent drills six threes in one quarter, it's tough to keep up offensively.

"It’s definitely frustrating because I know we really wanted it," FSHS junior Madison Piper said. "It came down to our execution on defense and I don’t think our defense was as good as we wanted it to be that game."

Of Free State's six losses this season, five are against teams ranked in the top five in the state. The lone exception was a one-point loss to Lawrence High in the City Showdown in December.

Free State's boys basketball team faced one of the most talented teams in the state playing at its best in a 68-61 loss at Olathe East.

In the first half, the Firebirds were efficient on offense and played solid defense. Yet, they were only up three points at halftime and were doomed by an 11-0 run in the third quarter by O-East.

The Firebirds bounced back with a victory against William Chrisman (Mo.) on Saturday, and they weren't discouraged by their road loss. Sitting a game back in the sub-state standings from the No. 2 seed, the Firebirds will likely have to win a road game against a top team to earn a spot at state.

"We need to keep cleaning things up on the road with three or four minutes to go," FSHS coach Sam Stroh said. "(Lawrence High), McPherson, here, Olathe South in overtime, we’re right there. And we might be on the road in sub-state. So this is a good learning experience for us. Come sub-state, hopefully this will pay off."


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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.

Free State girls basketball

  1. Madison Piper, jr. — Piper received a lot of attention from defenders, and still found a way to score a team-high 18 points. She did most of her work inside of the three-point line, knocking down jumpers and getting into the paint for layups. She had good looks for a couple of potential game-tying threes in the final minute, but just couldn’t get them to fall.

  2. Jaelyn Two Hearts, soph. — Down by six points in the fourth quarter, Two Hearts hit threes on back-to-back possessions to help the Firebirds back into the game. She scored 11 points and played solid defense, deflecting a couple of passes.

  3. Cameryn Thomas, soph. — The Firebirds needed some help on the glass, and Thomas grabbed some key rebounds. With a minute left in the fourth quarter, Thomas turned the ball over, but made up for it by forcing a 10-second violation in the backcourt. She added nine points, including four at the beginning of the third quarter.

  4. Caiti Schlesener, sr. — In the middle of the second quarter, Schlesener grabbed a steal and made a layup while being fouled. She added a layup at the beginning of the second quarter, scoring four points, and assisted on a three by Two Hearts.

  5. Peyton Brown, sr. — Brown scored on an inbounds play with two minutes left, cutting her team’s deficit to one point. Facing some tall post players, Brown played strong defense in the paint, limiting layups.

  6. Hannah Walter, sr. — Walter scored two points, but was limited in the fourth quarter because of foul trouble. When she was on the court, she played strong defense and closed out strong on shooters. She fouled out with about 2 1/2 minutes remaining.

  7. Jaycie Bishop, jr. — Drilled a three-pointer at the beginning of the second quarter, helping her team score on four straight possessions. She added strong defense.

    — Next up: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday vs. SM West. Record: 12-6.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Hunter Gudde, sr. — Gudde has a sixth sense when he knows he needs to step up for his team on offense. In the third quarter, he scored six of his team’s nine points. He finished with a game-high 22 points, adding three rebounds and two assists.

  2. Jay Dineen, jr. — Earning a spot in the starting lineup, Dineen used his strength to his advantage for one of his best games of the season. He finished with eight points, eight rebounds and two assists. Defensively, he was active and grabbed a steal.

  3. Kristian Rawls, sr. — Rawls put his teammates in good positions and played strong defense outside of a few touch fouls. He scored six points and dished two assists, dropping off passes on drives to the rim.

  4. Shannon Cordes, jr. — In the fourth quarter, Cordes provided a nice offensive boost, scoring six of his seven points in the final eight minutes. He’s becoming more dangerous with his drives to the rim, earning trips to the free throw line.

  5. Jacob Pavlyak, jr. — Pavlyak didn’t fill up the stat sheet, grabbing two rebounds and going scoreless. But he did a lot of things that don’t show up from stats. He was everywhere diving for loose balls and helping the Firebirds pick up extra offensive possessions. He also deflected a few passes, causing turnovers.

  6. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — Off of the bench, Thomsen was efficient. He made some strong plays in the post, grabbing three rebounds and scoring seven points. In the second quarter, he scored five points — a putback and a three-pointer.

  7. Cameron Clark, jr. — Clark was dominant in the first quarter, scoring seven points, including a dunk in transition and an and-one layup. But he never regained his rhythm after the first quarter, running into foul trouble and finishing with two rebounds and an assist.

  8. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — Off of the bench, Wilburn brought energy and was sharp on the court. Facing a pair of forwards taller than 6-foot-6, he scored two points and grabbed three rebounds.

  9. Darian Lewis, sr. — Lewis made a layup at the end of the first half, catching a pass from Pavlyak.

  10. Simon McCaffrey, soph. — Filled in for a few minutes during the second quarter at point guard and played active defense on the perimeter.

  11. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — Entered in the fourth quarter but did not record any stats.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. SM West. Record: 13-5.

Sunflower League boys basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

SM North … 9-0 … 14-4

Lawrence … 8-1 … 16-2

Olathe South … 7-2 … 13-5

Olathe East … 6-3 … 14-4

Free State … 6-3 … 13-5

Olathe North …4-5 … 12-6

SM West … 3-6 … 6-12

SM South … 3-6 … 8-10

SM East … 4-5 … 7-11

Olathe Northwest … 2-7 … 7-11

SM Northwest … 2-7 … 7-11

Leavenworth … 0-9 … 2-16

Sunflower League girls basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

Olathe South … 8-1 … 16-1

Olathe East … 8-1 … 15-3

Leavenworth … 8-1 … 14-4

SM Northwest … 7-2 … 16-2

SM West … 6-3 … 10-8

Free State … 5-4 … 12-6

SM North … 5-4 … 8-10

Lawrence … 3-6 … 9-9

SM East … 2-7 … 4-14

SM South … 1-8 … 4-14

Olathe Northwest … 1-8 … 7-11

Olathe North … 0-9 … 2-16


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Lawrence High hoops split against SM North; Stafford and Morgan top player rankings

As the defending Sunflower League champions and top-ranked team in the state, Lawrence High boys basketball players know they are going to get their opponent's best shot.

Heading into Tuesday's game against Shawnee Mission North, the Lions knew what was at stake before their 71-62 loss at LHS, snapping a 12-game win streak. The Indians have a one-game lead in the league standings with three games left.

The Lions didn't play their worst game, but certainly weren't at their best. It looked like they were pressing with a few unforced turnovers and some problems creating offense in half-court sets. But even after the loss, they wanted to use it to their advantage.

"Right now, it definitely stings," LHS senior Price Morgan said. "No one likes to lose. But I feel like we’re going to get dialed in now. I think that’s the wake-up call that we were needing."

As LHS coach Mike Lewis summed up, "This isn't the end of the world." The Lions are still in line for the No. 1 seed in their sub-state and when the final buzzer went off, many players said their first thought was about a potential rematch in the postseason next month.

"It’s a learning experience right now, for sure," LHS junior Jackson Mallory said. "Definitely motivation for us. We know if we get them again in March, we’ll know what we’re going to need to do and what we’re going to need to tighten up on. It’s just motivation."

Lawrence's girls basketball team picked up a 55-45 victory against SM North, a huge win with sub-state implications.

The Lions are the No. 3 seed in their sub-state bracket with three games left to play, holding a one-game edge over Olathe Northwest and SM North. They are also two games back from No. 2 seeded SM West.

Seeding is important for the Lions because they've played so well at home this season. They have a 4-2 record in the Jungle this season with their two losses by a combined three points. It would also be the first time the Lions hosted a playoff game since 2008, when the school won a state title.

"It's a dogfight for the No. 2 and No. 3 (seed)," LHS coach Jeff Dickson said. "We know what a special place the Jungle is. We know how meaningful it would be to host a game here."


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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 girls basketball

  1. E’lease Stafford, soph. — When Stafford is playing at her best, she is one of the best in the Sunflower League. She proved it again on Tuesday, scoring a game-high 16 points with five rebounds and two assists. She was a match-up nightmare, shooting jumpers over opponents or posting up against smaller guards. Defensively, she knows when to double team and cause havoc.

  2. Chisom Ajekwu, fr. — After she was frustrated in the first half with two quick fouls, she dominated in the fourth quarter. In the final eight minutes, Ajekwu scored five points and grabbed eight rebounds. She nearly completed a double-double with nine rebounds and 12 rebounds, adding three blocks.

  3. Olivia Lemus, jr. — With a seven-point lead and six minutes left, Lemus lined up in the right corner, caught a pass and had no hesitation when she fired away. Swish. Lemus made her last three triples, scoring 15 points. She added three rebounds and took a charge on defense.

  4. Hannah Stewart, fr. — Stewart is becoming more and more comfortable on the court. She was huge in the fourth quarter, playing great defense when SM North was trying to set up its offense. Stewart added a big three-pointer and assisted on a three by Lemus. She finished with seven points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals.

  5. Skylar Drum, jr. — With her quickness, Drum scored six points and grabbed two rebounds, including an offensive rebound off of a missed free throw. She also had a nice defensive stretch at the end of the first quarter by grabbing a steal, then blocking a shot on the next possession.

  6. Talima Harjo, soph. — Harjo couldn’t get her shot to drop, but played solid defense on the perimeter and in the Lions’ full-court press. She finished with two rebounds, a steal, an assist and a block.

  7. Gracie Reinsch, sr. — With Ajekwu on the bench for long stretches in the first half because of foul trouble, Reinsch stepped up with strong defense in the paint. With sheer hustle, Reinsch grabbed two rebounds in traffic, ripping the ball out of her opponent’s hands. She missed on two shot attempts, including a running jumper at the buzzer in the first quarter.

  8. Leslie Ostronic, fr. — Ostronic didn’t attempt any shots but she grabbed two rebounds.

  9. Asia Goodwin, soph. — Entered in the fourth quarter and didn’t record any stats.

    — Next up: 5:30 p.m. Friday vs. Olathe North. Record: 8-9.

Lawrence High boys basketball

  1. Price Morgan, sr. — In the fourth quarter, Morgan tried to put the team on his back and carry them to a win. He did it all on both sides of the court with a layup and a tip-slam that nearly brought the house down. On defense, he took a charge and blocked a shot at 100 mph into the ground. By the end of the two-minute spurt, he had the student section chanting his name. He finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists.

  2. Jackson Mallory, jr. — Mallory is turning into one of those players that finds their stride at the end of the season. He was fantastic on defense guarding Michael Weathers — “I’ve been comparing him to Buddy Hield. He can just kind of do it all,” Mallory said — by staying in front of his drives and not fouling, which not many players can successfully do. On offense, Mallory stepped up in the final minute of the first half with a perfect no-look assist, coast-to-coast layup after grabbing a steal, and he banked in a buzzer-beating three. He had 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.

  3. Justin Roberts, sr. — On an off night, Roberts had 14 points, three assists, three steals and five turnovers. He couldn’t find his shot and took some big hits while driving to the rim or trying to stop SM North players from scoring in the paint.

  4. Fred Brou, sr. — Brou didn’t have his best offensive night, only scoring two points on a dunk in the first quarter. But he was huge in other areas. He grabbed seven rebounds, blocked a shot and dished four assists. His ability to pass from the perimeter makes him such a tough matchup for defenders.

  5. Anthony Harvey, sr. — Harvey couldn’t find his shooting stroke from behind the arc, but he knows how to sprint past defenders in transition. He scored nine points and added two rebounds.

  6. Kobe Buffalomeat, jr. — The 6-foot-6 forward had a nice stretch at the end of the third quarter, sitting in the paint and waiting for his defender to help on drives by Roberts and Mallory. Once he was open, his teammates found him and Buffalomeat converted on layups.

  7. Noah Butler, fr. — Butler missed his two three-point attempts and was called for a couple of touch fouls on the defensive end.

  8. Braden Solko, jr. — Solko didn’t attempt any shots when he was on the floor.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Friday vs. #5 Olathe North. Record: 15-2.

Sunflower League boys basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

SM North … 8-0 … 13-4

Lawrence … 7-1 … 15-2

Olathe South … 6-2 … 12-5

Free State … 6-2 … 12-4

Olathe East … 5-3 … 13-4

Olathe North …4-4 … 12-5

SM West … 3-5 … 6-11

SM South … 3-5 … 8-9

SM East … 3-5 … 6-11

Olathe Northwest … 2-6 … 7-10

SM Northwest … 1-7 … 6-11

Leavenworth … 0-8 … 2-15

Sunflower League girls basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

Olathe South … 7-1 … 15-1

Olathe East … 7-1 … 14-3

Leavenworth … 7-1 … 13-4

SM Northwest … 6-2 … 15-2

SM West … 6-2 … 10-7

Free State … 5-3 … 12-5

SM North … 4-4 … 7-10

Lawrence … 2-6 … 8-9

SM East … 2-6 … 4-13

Olathe Northwest … 1-7 … 7-10

SM South … 1-7 … 4-13

Olathe North … 0-8 … 2-15


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Lawrence High basketball sweeps SM South; Morgan and Stafford top player rankings

Lawrence High's boys basketball team preaches the next man up philosophy and lived up to it in its last few games.

If the Lions are missing one of their top players, that just means somebody else gets an opportunity to shine. Without senior point guard Justin Roberts, the Lions don't have the same offensive rhythm, but they continue to find ways to win, including a 49-42 victory against Shawnee Mission South on Friday.

"We’d much rather play with (Roberts), let’s cut to the chase," LHS coach Mike Lewis said. "But whether it’s Justin or Price (Morgan) or any of our starters, it just creates an opportunity for other kids to step up."

The Lions have played two games without Morgan, one without Jackson Mallory and 2 1/2 games without Roberts. Credit to them for winning at less than full strength.

Lawrence High's girls basketball team is playing its best basketball of the season, winning three of its last four games after a 62-27 rout over SM South.

For young teams, it can take time to learn how to win games, especially against older squads. The Lions had some close losses against top competition and they'll get another tough test against SM Northwest tonight. But if they keep gaining confidence, they're going to be an awfully dangerous team by the end of the year.


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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 girls basketball

  1. E’lease Stafford, soph. — When Stafford is playing at her best, it’s no coincidence that the Lions are playing at their best as a team. She scored a game-high 15 points with nine rebounds, scoring on putbacks, drives into the paint and hitting a three.

  2. Chisom Ajekwu, fr. — Ajekwu had a game-high four blocks on Friday, but it looked like she affected a lot more shots with her defense in the paint. She completed a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

  3. Hannah Stewart, fr. — Stewart has been steady all season but is growing into a better scorer in the past few weeks. She scored 11 points on Friday, including a buzzer-beating three-pointer in the first quarter. She added three rebounds and three assists with only one turnover.

  4. Talima Harjo, soph. — Ever since Harjo scored eight straight points in the fourth quarter against Olathe East, she’s played with a lot more confidence. Earning the starting nod with Skylar Drum out, Harjo had six points, 10 rebounds and five assists. In the first quarter, she scored or assisted on 11 of the team’s 16 points.

  5. Olivia Lemus, jr. — The 5-foot-3 sharpshooter found her rhythm from the perimeter and hit some big shots, scoring 13 points. She added five rebounds.

  6. Leslie Ostronic, fr. — One of those players that looks better on the court throughout each game this season. She scored two points at the free throw line and added two rebounds, an assist and two steals.

  7. Alexis Boyd, sr. — Boyd had a nice stretch in the third quarter, scoring in the low post and blocking a shot within a minute. She added two rebounds and an assist.

  8. Gracie Reinsch, sr. — She played hard in the final minutes, scoring four points including a putback in the last 10 seconds.

  9. Emma Bentzinger, sr. — Bentzinger played her usual solid defense in the post, denying passes. She had two rebounds and missed her only shot attempt.

  10. Sammy Williams, fr. — Entered in the fourth quarter and grabbed one rebound.

  11. Tyrin Cosey, soph. — Played in the final minutes and turned the ball over once. She made some nice plays at the end of the JV game, helping the Lions to a close win.

    — Next up: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at #3 SM Northwest. Record: 7-7.

Lawrence High boys basketball

  1. Price Morgan, sr. — With Justin Roberts out, the Lions are leaning on Morgan and he’s taken his game to another level. He was the best player on the court Friday, doing everything from scoring points to grabbing rebounds and diving on the court for loose balls. He completed a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

  2. Fred Brou, sr. — On one possession, Brou was boxed out by two players and still grabbed a rebound. He essentially ended the game with a two-handed slam and continues to play with high energy on the floor. He had 11 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

  3. Anthony Harvey, sr. — Harvey sparked the Lions with a buzzer-beating layup at the end of the third quarter and a go-ahead three in the first minute of the fourth quarter. On a night where both teams struggled offensively, Harvey brought energy to both sides of the court. He had 11 points and three rebounds.

  4. Jackson Mallory, jr. — Even when Mallory can’t get going offensively, he is great at not letting that slow down any other parts of his game. He had six points, three rebounds, three steals and an assist.

  5. Noah Butler, fr. — Butler couldn’t get his shots to drop (0-for-6), but that didn’t stop him from using his athleticism on defense. He matched up against SM South point guard CJ Hill, and did a good job of making him work for each bucket.

  6. Kobe Buffalomeat, jr. — Lining up against two taller players, he used his strength to his advantage. He had three rebounds and a block, missing his only shot attempt.

  7. Braden Solko, jr. — Solko picked up the start with Roberts out, and he played good defense on the perimeter. He had one rebound and two steals, but missed two shots.

  8. Austin Miller, jr. — He missed a three-pointer and grabbed one rebound.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Tuesday at SM Northwest. Record: 13-1.

Sunflower League boys basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

Lawrence … 5-0 … 13-1

Free State … 5-0 … 11-2

SM North … 5-0 … 10-4

Olathe South … 4-1 … 10-4

Olathe East … 3-2 … 11-3

SM West … 3-2 … 6-8

SM South … 2-3 … 7-7

Olathe North …1-4 … 9-5

SM Northwest … 1-4 … 6-8

SM East … 1-4 … 4-10

Olathe Northwest … 0-5 … 5-9

Leavenworth … 0-5 … 2-12

Sunflower League girls basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

Olathe South … 5-0 … 13-0

Olathe East … 5-0 … 12-2

Leavenworth … 4-1 … 10-4

SM West … 4-1 … 8-6

SM Northwest … 3-2 … 12-2

Free State … 3-2 … 10-4

SM North … 3-2 … 6-8

Lawrence … 1-4 … 7-7

SM South … 1-4 … 4-10

SM East … 1-4 … 3-11

Olathe Northwest … 0-5 … 6-8

Olathe North … 0-5 … 2-12


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Lawrence High boys hoops wins Topeka; Free State boys bounce back against Lansing

It's the Year of the Comeback in Lawrence this season.

Down 14 points with 4:05 remaining in the Topeka Invitational Tournament championship, Lawrence High's boys basketball team fought back to force overtime and eventually rip out a 62-61 victory against Highland Park.

On one hand, the improbable comeback was impressive considering they were playing without leading scorer and senior point guard Justin Roberts. But it was also a matchup between the Lions and Highland Park, which always produces dramatic games. The Lions beat Highland Park in December, picking up a 72-64 victory in OT in the Blue Valley Shootout.

In the past four seasons, the Lions own a 4-2 record against Highland Park, with three games separated by four points or less. That also includes a one-point win by LHS in the T.I.T. title game in 2013.

The Lions (12-1, ranked No. 2 in Class 6A) weren't at their best during the tournament, especially on offense without Roberts (dislocated shoulder Friday), but it's a credit to them that they were able to pull out three wins in three days.

Free State's boys basketball team, which already picked up a win when down by 18 in the fourth quarter, took second place at the McPherson Invitational over the weekend. Back home, the Firebirds won 66-53 against Lansing on Tuesday.

The Firebirds, who were unranked for too long, won't be underestimated by any teams for the rest of the season. They are ranked No. 6 in 6A, and they have so much depth that they usually can find somebody to step up for a big night.

Additionally, Free State's only two losses were in some of the toughest atmospheres for road teams: at Lawrence High and at McPherson (12-1, ranked No. 1 in 4A-I). The Firebirds (10-2) will have some tough games when their league schedule resumes, but they've proven they're one of the top teams in the state.

None by Journal-World HS


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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 boys basketball

  1. Price Morgan, sr. — The Lions needed somebody to step up with Roberts out, and Morgan filled that role. He scored a game-high 20 points, scoring in a variety of ways through layups, putbacks, mid-range jumpers and drives to the rim. Even after taking a big hit when jumping in the air for a pass and colliding with an opponent, Morgan was huge in the paint. He also had six rebounds, three assists and a block.

  2. Fred Brou, sr. — Brou saved some of his best basketball for the end of the tournament. He scored eight points in the fourth quarter and, of course, scored the game-winning on a tip-in at the buzzer in OT. Brou finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, two assists and a block.

  3. Noah Butler, fr. — As the season progresses, Butler continues to keep improving on the court. He made some huge plays in the final minutes of regulation, knocking down two threes and blocking a shot off of the backboard. He added a banked in layup in OT. Butler scored 13 points with three rebounds and two blocks.

  4. Jackson Mallory, jr. — Mallory was sick throughout the weekend, but he estimated he was about 90 percent for the championship Saturday. Taking over the primary ball-handling duties for Roberts, he scored eight points with five rebounds and two assists. He’s one of those players that just makes all of his teammates better.

  5. Anthony Harvey, sr. — After scoring 18 points in the semifinals, Harvey couldn’t get his shot to drop Saturday. He scored three points — all at the free throw line. But he played solid defense and attacked the glass for five rebounds.

  6. Kobe Buffalomeat, jr. — Buffalomeat does such a good job screening for his teammates, helping set up the offense. He scored two points, and nearly showed off his range with a three-point attempt. He added three rebounds and a block.

  7. Braden Solko, jr. — Solko missed a three, but provided his usual hard-nosed defense. He grabbed one rebound and had one assist.

  8. Austin Miller, jr. — Miller didn’t attempt any shots but played good defense on the perimeter without fouling.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Feb. 5 vs. SM South. Record: 12-1.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Hunter Gudde, sr. — Gudde found his rhythm in the second quarter with six points in a two-minute stretch. He jumped passing lanes for three steals and was strong to the rim in transition. He scored a game-high 17 points with two rebounds, going 9-of-12 from the free throw line.

  2. Kristian Rawls, sr. — When Rawls goes into attack mode, he’s tough to stop. He scored eight points with a few drives through traffic. He added four rebounds and a steal, playing solid defense on the perimeter.

  3. Cameron Clark, jr. — Clark nearly finished with a double-double, recording eight points and eight rebounds off of the bench. He played well in the post and did a good job setting up screens for his teammates on offense.

  4. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — The Firebirds needed a boost on offense in the first quarter and Tochtrop stepped up. First it was a nice drive to the rim, banking in a bucket. Then he added a three in transition. An all-tournament selection at McPherson last weekend, Tochtrop had seven points and a steal before exiting in the third quarter because of a knee injury.

  5. Jacob Pavlyak, jr. — Matched up against Lansing’s top scorer, Sam Lorenzen, Pavlyak did his best to make his shots difficult in the second half. Lorenzen still hit a couple of threes, but Pavlyak prevented any further damage. He scored six points and had three rebounds.

  6. Shannon Cordes, jr. — In the second quarter, Cordes caught fire and helped the Firebirds to an 11-point lead. He scored eight straight points, knocking down a pair of threes and two free throws on a nice drive to the rim. He added two steals.

  7. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — Thomsen only took one shot, missing a three, but he was engaged on the defensive end and grabbed four rebounds.

  8. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — Wilburn battled some foul trouble in the first half, but he scored five points, grabbed two steals and had one rebound.

  9. Darian Lewis, sr. — Always in the right spot to make plays, Lewis grabbed three rebounds and assisted on a layup in the fourth quarter. He scored on a putback in the first quarter.

  10. Jay Dineen, jr. — Dineen brought his usual energy. He scored on a layup-and-the-foul bucket in the third quarter, receiving a nice hi-lo pass, and he grabbed three rebounds.

  11. Simon McCaffrey, soph. — He looks like he’s becoming more confident on the court. He missed on his only shot attempt but assisted on a three to Cordes.

  12. Reece White-Downing, soph. — Entered in the fourth quarter and knocked down three of his four free throws in the final minute.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Feb. 5 vs. SM Northwest. Record: 10-2.

As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Lawrence High splits against Olathe East; Free State boys win in triple OT

If there was ever a game that brought a playoff atmosphere to the regular season, look no further than Lawrence High on Friday against Olathe East.

The Lions were eliminated by the Hawks in 2014 during the sub-state title game, and both schools were in the Class 6A state semifinals last season. With a fired up crowd, the Lions picked up one of their biggest wins of the season with a 69-61 victory.

The Hawks were missing two key starters, but it was a big momentum boost for the Lions heading into the Topeka Invitational Tournament this week.

For Lawrence High's girls basketball team, I made the point last year — and it applies again — no team in the state has a tougher schedule in the first two weeks back from winter break. In the team's first four Sunflower League games, LHS opponents have a combined 15-1 record in the league and 30-6 overall.

The Lions were encouraged by their 44-43 loss to Olathe East, and they hope it'll turn into momentum for the rest of the season. It was a big game for sophomore Talima Harjo, who scored nine points in the fourth quarter, leading the charge for a comeback.

The Lions need reliable scoring options outside of junior Olivia Lemus and sophomore E'lease Stafford, so Harjo's play would make the Lions a lot more dangerous.

On the other side of town, it's hard to win games in more dramatic fashion than Free State's boys basketball team over the weekend. On Friday, the Firebirds fought back from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 69-68 win at Olathe Northwest. The next afternoon, they picked up a 83-81 win in triple overtime against Lee's Summit North.

When things are going well, sometimes the ball just rolls your way. The Firebirds benefitted form some missed free throws in their big comeback and a missed layup in OT against Lee's Summit North.

The only team I didn't see over the weekend was Free State's girls basketball team, which picked up a 65-44 victory over Olathe Northwest, a nice bounce back after a loss against Leavenworth.


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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 girls basketball

  1. Olivia Lemus, jr. — It seems like whenever the Lions need a big bucket, Lemus finds a way to deliver. She scored a team-high 12 points, knocking down two threes in the third quarter. She was active on the glass and defensively, grabbing five rebounds and winning the races to loose balls.

  2. Talima Harjo, soph. — In the fourth quarter, it turned into the Harjo show. She scored eight straight points for the Lions, tying the game with 1:39 left. She hit a baseline jumper and threes from opposite sides of the arc. After her offensive explosion, she forced a turnover on defense with a deflection. She had 11 points and a steal.

  3. Skylar Drum, jr. — It’s not easy to score on Drum. She uses her athleticism to play defense in the post and on the perimeter. She held O-East’s Caroline Hoppock (15 points) scoreless in the second half. Drum added six points and five rebounds.

  4. E’lease Stafford, soph. — Stafford didn’t have her shot dropping, but she showed assertiveness by calling for the ball on offense. She had seven points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

  5. Chisom Ajekwu, fr. — Ajekwu didn’t have her best offensive night, going 0-for-4 from the field, but defensively she was strong in the post. The 6-3 freshman had four rebounds and three blocks.

  6. Hannah Stewart, fr. — Stewart is starting to play with more confidence. She tied the game in the fourth quarter with a teardrop floater down the middle of the lane. The freshman had five points, one rebound, one steal and one assist.

  7. Leslie Ostronic, fr. — Ostronic missed her only shot attempt, but she played solid defense and was reliable with the ball. She had two rebounds and a steal.

  8. Alexis Boyd, sr. — Boyd went 1-for-4 from the floor, scoring in the second quarter on a turnaround jumper.

  9. Emma Bentzinger, sr. — Bentzinger played good defense on the court, actively denying passes, but she missed her only shot attempt.

    — Next up: Jan. 28 at Topeka Tournament. Record: 4-6.

Lawrence High boys basketball

  1. Justin Roberts, sr. — Roberts has been known for his clutch plays over the years and Friday was just another chapter. He gave the Lions a lead with under a minute left when he was fouled on a three-point attempt, then stole an inbounds pass which turned into a layup for Price Morgan. Roberts had a team-high 24 points with three rebounds, four assists and three steals.

  2. Price Morgan, sr. — The recent Air Force football commit showed off his potential on the basketball court. He scored 17 points with four rebounds and two assists. He was huge in the third quarter when the Lions couldn’t find a rhythm on offense, getting to the free throw line and scoring on a layup-and-the-foul bucket.

  3. Fred Brou, sr. — Brou had one of his toughest defensive assignments of the year, trying to slow down Olathe East senior Josiah Talbert. He avoided giving Talbert any layups, but couldn’t prevent his hot shooting. Offensively, Brou had six points and five rebounds, including two dunks. He also had a great assist to Morgan in the final minute, giving the Lions a crucial two-possession lead.

  4. Anthony Harvey, sr. — Harvey stepped up with some big shots, scoring six points in the fourth quarter. Early in the final period, he was fouled on a three-point attempt, giving the Lions a lead, then raced past defenders for a layup less than a minute later. He finished with 11 points.

  5. Jackson Mallory, jr. — He dealt with a little bit of foul trouble and hit shots weren’t falling, and Mallory still found a way to make a big impact. He had five points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal. His best stretch in the fourth quarter was a full-court pass to Harvey for a layup, then two possessions later, he hit a three from the right wing.

  6. Noah Butler, fr. — Butler provided a nice spark off of the bench. He used his athleticism for a nice dunk in the second quarter and he grabbed a rebound and a steal.

  7. Braden Solko, jr. — As usual, Solko played solid defense on the perimeter, limiting drives past him. He scored on layup in the second quarter and grabbed a rebound.

    — Next up: 3:15 p.m. Thursday vs. Wichita Northwest in Topeka Invitational Tournament. Record: 9-1.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Hunter Gudde, sr. — He scored 12 of his team-high 23 points in the three overtime sessions, giving the Firebirds a big boost offensively. He sat out all but two minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, and once he returned to the court he found his rhythm. He added four rebounds, a block and a steal.

  2. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — In the first half with Free State’s two leading scorers on the bench, Thomsen stepped up with some big baskets. He knocked down three triples in the first quarter, and he scored on a putback in the second quarter. The 6-foot-5 wing also had a team-high six rebounds and three assists.

  3. Kristian Rawls, sr. — Rawls knows how to play well under pressure. With 1:36 left in regulation, he knocked down two game-tying free throws. Once again down by two, he scored on a running shot in the middle of the paint before the buzzer to send the game into OT. He scored 14 points with four assists before fouling out in third OT.

  4. Jacob Pavlyak, jr. — Free State’s top defensive specialist grabbed a steal on an inbounds pass with 30 seconds left in the third OT, giving the Firebirds the ball for their game-winning possession. Pavlyak only had two points but his impact on defense was huge. He also had four assists.

  5. Darian Lewis, sr. — Off of the bench, Lewis had seven points and five rebounds, including a game-tying three-pointer in the third OT.

    “Darian hasn’t hit in a three in practice in two years,” FSHS coach Sam Stroh joked. “But he made a play. Someone has to step up and make a play. I trust the bench. Darian is the example and epitome of a team guy. Never complains about playing time. Busts his rear when he gets in there. That’s what we’re all about.”

  6. Shannon Cordes, jr. — Cordes scored 11 points, no shot bigger than his game-tying three-pointer in the first OT. He was a perfect 3-for-3 on shots inside of the arc, and he had one rebound.

  7. Cameron Clark, jr. — Clark was tasked with guarding Lee Summit’s North top post player in the final minutes of regulation and he did a good job of not allowing him to catch and turn for layups. Clark had six points and four rebounds before fouling out in the second OT.

  8. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — Plagued by foul trouble all game, Wilburn didn’t spend many minutes on the court. He scored two points and had three rebounds.

  9. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — Tochtrop turned a nightmare game into a dream ending. He scored the game-winning layup with less than two seconds left in the third overtime, making a nice play after receiving the ball from Gudde after missing his first three shot attempts.

    “I was hoping (Gudde) would pass it to me,” Tochtrop said. “But then he passed by me, and I was like, ‘Oh, he didn’t see me.’ Then he just threw it behind his head and somehow it got to me. It was a pretty easy layup from there.”

  10. Jalan Robinson, soph. — Playing in his second varsity game, Robinson scored on a layup in the second quarter.

  11. Garrett Luinstra, soph. — In the final minutes after Rawls fouled out, Luinstra took over at point guard. He didn’t take any shots but he grabbed a rebound.

  12. Simon McCaffrey, soph. — He had a nice assist on an inbounds pass to Lewis in the fourth quarter, and he missed two three-point attempts.

    — Next up: 3:45 p.m. Thursday vs. Wichita North in McPherson Tournament. Record: 7-1.

Sunflower League boys basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

Lawrence … 4-0 … 9-1

Free State … 4-0 … 7-1

SM North … 4-0 … 6-3

Olathe East … 3-1 … 7-2

Olathe South … 3-1 … 7-2

SM South … 2-2 … 5-4

SM West … 2-2 … 3-5

Olathe North …1-3 … 5-4

SM Northwest … 1-3 … 4-4

Olathe Northwest … 0-4 … 3-6

Leavenworth … 0-4 … 1-7

SM East … 0-4 … 1-8

Sunflower League girls basketball standings

Team … League … Overall

Olathe South … 4-0 … 9-0

Leavenworth … 4-0 … 8-1

Olathe East … 4-0 … 8-1

Free State … 3-1 … 6-2

SM North … 3-1 … 5-3

SM West … 3-1 … 5-4

SM Northwest … 2-2 … 7-2

SM South … 1-3 … 1-6

Lawrence … 0-4 … 4-6

Olathe North … 0-4 … 2-5

Olathe Northwest … 0-4 … 4-5

SM East … 0-4 … 0-7


As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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Free State splits against Leavenworth; seniors lead player rankings

It was easy to see the frustration on the faces of Free State High girls basketball players on Tuesday.

The Firebirds played one of their most complete games on both sides of the ball against Leavenworth, and they fell a play or two short in a 42-40 loss at FSHS.

"They were real tough. I think that’s one of the best games we’ve played as well," senior Caiti Schlesener said.

But even in a loss, there were plenty of bright spots. FSHS star junior guard Madison Piper was held scoreless in the second half and the Firebirds still had an opportunity to win in the fourth quarter against one of the top teams in the state. If Free State can compete at an elite level without its top scorer, the Firebirds become only that more dangerous.

Free State's boys basketball team played strong defense and cruised to a 48-34 win over Leavenworth. With the win, the Firebirds improved to 3-0 in the Sunflower League.

"We’re feeling pretty good," senior Hunter Gudde said of the undefeated league record. "We didn’t expect anything less. We’re just going to keep preparing for games and keep fighting like we have been."

The biggest thing for the Firebirds will be finding consistent options outside of Gudde, who is averaging 21.7 points since winter break. Seniors Kristian Rawls and Chrision Wilburn have stepped up with big games, but the Firebirds are hoping to find a little more consistency from their entire team.

"We’re seeing individuals get better but we need five, six, seven at the same time and same night get better," FSHS coach Sam Stroh said. "That’ll be kind of the goal. We’ll take it one game at a time."


In case you missed it, we're copying one of the popular features of KUsports.com, "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.

Free State girls basketball

  1. Caiti Schlesener, sr. — When the Firebirds needed somebody to step up on offense in the second half, Schlesener responded play after play. She scored a game-high 12 points (all in the second half) with drives to the rim and finishing through contact. She added two assists and a steal.

  2. Madison Piper, jr. — Piper was dominant in the first half, scoring 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting from the field. In the second half, Leavenworth refused to let her take any open shots and Piper was held scoreless. Despite being kept away from the ball, Piper nearly had a double-double with nine rebounds.

  3. Hannah Walter, sr. — Walter just knows how to be in the right places at the right time. On two inbounds passes, she snuck backdoor for open layups. Defensively, she led the Firebirds with two steals. Walter was close to a double-double with eight points and seven rebounds.

  4. Peyton Brown, sr. — In the fourth quarter, Brown scored four points at the free throw line. She finished with six points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal.

  5. Cameryn Thomas, soph. — Thomas had to deal with a lot of traps and double-teams around mid-court. She scored one point, had two rebounds, an assist and a steal.

  6. Jaelyn Two Hearts, soph. — Two Hearts was active on both sides of the court. She only scored two points, but had two assists and provided good ball handling. She added three rebounds and a block in the paint.

  7. Jaycie Bishop, jr. — As usual, Bishop played solid defense on the perimeter, preventing drives and passes. She had one steal, one assist and didn’t attempt any shots.

    — Next up: 5:30 p.m. Friday at Olathe Northwest. Record: 5-2.

Free State boys basketball

  1. Hunter Gudde, sr. — After being shutout in the first half, missing both of his shots, Gudde created some offense for the Firebirds in the last two quarters. He scored a game-high 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting, finding ways to the rim for layups. He added three rebounds, two steals and a block.

  2. Chrision Wilburn, sr. — Wilburn helped the Firebirds to their quick start, scoring six of his eight points in the first four minutes. He did a good job of finding space in the paint, and his teammates were smart to feed him the ball. He also had three rebounds.

  3. Jacob Pavylak, jr. — Pavlyak played strong defense, grabbing a steal and going coast-to-coast for a layup in the second quarter. He does a great job of providing ball pressure and denying passes. He finished with five points and two rebounds.

  4. Kristian Rawls, sr. — Rawls had some key moments, scoring five points with two rebounds, two assists and two steals. He had to sit with a little bit of foul trouble, but when he was on the court, he did a good job of slashing into the paint.

  5. Shannon Cordes, jr. — In the third quarter, Cordes scored five straight points. He knocked down a triple, then grabbed a steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup. He finished with seven points and two steals.

  6. Cameron Clark, jr. — In his varsity debut, Clark picked up some big minutes. He scored four points, including a layup in the fourth quarter. He added two rebounds.

  7. Sloan Thomsen, jr. — Thomsen had some open looks, but couldn’t get his shot to drop. Instead, he was big for the Firebirds on the glass, grabbing a team-high six rebounds.

  8. Reece White-Downing, soph. — He scored two points in the second quarter, following up on his own missed shot.

  9. Darian Lewis, sr. — Lewis knocked down two free throws and played solid defense.

  10. Drew Tochtrop, sr. — Tochtrop was active and brought good energy, but he missed both of his shot attempts.

  11. Simon McCaffrey, soph. — McCaffrey crossed a defender over with nice ball handling, but missed the three-pointer to complete the highlight.

  12. Garrett Lunistra, soph. — Entered in the final minute, but didn’t record any stats.

    — Next up: 7 p.m. Friday at Olathe Northwest. Record: 5-1.

As always, feel free to comment, email me, or find me on Twitter @nightengalejr.

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