Lions looking to stay unbeaten at Mill Valley; Firebirds eye bounce-back effort vs. Gardner Edgerton

Lawrence High's Kem Allen celebrates after blocking a field goal attempt by Shawnee Mission West at the end of the first half to hold the Vikings scoreless for the half on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021 at Lawrence High School. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World)

Lawrence High football is taking a road trip to Mill Valley on Friday, and head coach Clint Bowen knows how high the stakes are for both teams.

Both the Lions and the Jaguars are undefeated. They have 3-0 records right now, and one of them will soon make it 4-0.

“(Mill Valley is) a team that’s had a lot of success recently,” Bowen said. “They were coming off a state championship a year ago. (Head coach) Joel Applebee has built a winning culture and a winning program. He’s found a way to just keep plugging it in.”

Bowen knows he has to keep his group focused. He’s expecting a tight, competitive game against a much different team than what they’ve seen up to this point. And Mill Valley has some momentum heading into this game after its 41-10 victory at Shawnee Mission East last week.

“The margin of error is very small,” Bowen said. “Any game you go into, there’s no such thing as a gimme. We’re not that talented that we can just walk into a game and win.”

He continued: “We have to come out and play a physical game. We have the ability to run the ball with some of our offensive linemen; we have a couple of big kids. We have some tailbacks who can carry the ball. We have to go out and be physical and play that type of game.”

The LHS defense has been rock solid in the first three games, giving up an average of just 153 yards of total offense per game.

Bowen is comfortable with what he’s seen from his defense and is looking for consistency when his defenders line up this week.

“I love their attitude,” he said. “They’re playing hard; they’re coming up with huge red zone and goal-line stops each and every week.”

LHS and Mill Valley are set to kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Jaguar Stadium.

FSHS looking to bounce back

The Free State football team will look to get back on track Friday when it hosts Gardner Edgerton.

The Firebirds (2-1) are coming off a hard-fought, 21-7 road loss to Olathe North last week, and head coach Kevin Stewart thinks they’re now in the heart of the season.

“We’re going to start getting some momentum now,” Stewart said. “We know who we are now.”

Converting on third down is an area Stewart has been preaching all week. That was one of the major issues that cost the Firebirds against the Eagles last week, and one they are looking to clean up against the Trailblazers.

Gardner Edgerton is 0-3 entering this week’s game, but Stewart said that record can be misleading because of the Trailblazers’ talent and tough schedule thus far.

“They play hard and they are aggressive,” Stewart said. “They’re getting better at it each week just like we are. Their offense is their strength.”

In terms of the Firebirds’ offense, Stewart is hoping for continued production from senior receiver Jordan Brown, who led the Firebirds in receptions last week. Stewart also said he wants to see Free State’s outside receivers get more involved in the weeks ahead.

“The better the opponent, the more we have to spread out,” Stewart said.

As the Firebirds put the final touches on their game plan, they’re also focusing on how to move on mentally after last week’s tough loss.

“We just got to move forward,” Stewart said. “That loss last week, we don’t get it back. We have to hold that loss and we have to get better. I think they are ready to go. I feel they are focused.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday at Free State High School.

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