LHS football falls to ‘physical’ Topeka High rushing attack in regionals 56-35
photo by: Carter Gaskins
Set up at his own 49-yard line, Topeka High senior running back Ky Thomas took the handoff on fourth-and-1, exploding up the middle for a 51-yard touchdown to take the Trojans’ first lead of the game.
The one-two punch of Thomas and senior quarterback Da’Vonshai Harden wore the Lawrence High defense down, as the Trojans (9-1) defeated the Lions (8-2) 56-35 in the regional round of the Class 6A state playoffs Friday.
“We thought we could slow them down, but we couldn’t,” LHS coach Steve Rampy said. “They’re a good football team. We lost to the better team today.”
However, it was a shootout to start, with both LHS and THS trading scores. LHS junior quarterback Jackson Dooley and junior running back Devin Neal orchestrated the offense for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game.
Thomas and Harden responded with a touchdown of their own, though, tying the game up 7-7 midway through the first quarter.
“We did a good job,” Rampy said of LHS’ opening offense. “We needed to score points against (THS because) they have a great offense. We had to do what we had to do.
“We just couldn’t get off the field (on defense).”
On the next drive, the LHS offense found itself with a fourth-and-1 around midfield after a jet sweep to junior quarterback/wide receiver Tre’ Jackson didn’t reach the sticks. Neal took the handoff and burst for a 48-yard touchdown to take a 14-7 lead.
“Everything that the (offensive line) was giving me, we just took it,” Neal said. “We just kept on going from there.”
LHS did attempt an onside kick right after, but it was recovered at the 50-yard line by THS, setting up another scoring drive for Thomas.
The second quarter was maintained the explosive offense, but it was controlled by THS.
Just out of the break, Thomas burst for the 51-yard touchdown run to give THS its first lead of the game at 21-14. Less than two minutes later, Neal fumbled in the backfield.
THS sophomore linebacker Tylan Alejos promptly scooped up the ball and ran it back for a 60-yard touchdown to extend the lead. Once LHS got the ball back, the Lions were forced to punt for the first time in the game.
To cap off the second quarter, Harden led another scoring drive. He was pressured to throw by the LHS defense — something he rarely did in the first half (2-of-7 for 65 yards) — but managed to find Thomas down the right sideline for a 45-yard gain.
Even with a holding penalty a couple of plays later, runs of 12 and 15 yards from Thomas helped set up a 10-yard rushing touchdown for Harden to take a 35-14 lead.
THS did get the ball back with just over a minute left in the half, but elected to run out the clock and take the lead into the break.
Coming out of halftime, LHS looked like it did at the beginning of the first half as the Lions were able to get a defensive stop on fourth down. The offense responded to, as Dooley found Jackson open across the middle for a 45-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 35-21.
However, THS senior running back Janus Gilbert returned the kickoff to the LHS 7-yard line, setting up another touchdown run for Thomas, his fourth of the night.
But, LHS and Neal responded, as Neal found a whole open on the sideline for a 76-yard touchdown run to give the Lions another potential spark.
The defense followed suit on the next THS drive, as LHS junior defensive back Kallun Chitama intercepted a Harden pass on the 2-yard line.
However, Dooley and the offense were forced into another three-and-out. Dooley did find Chris McGee on third down, but McGee was ruled out of bounds.
Thomas also added his fifth touchdown of the night at the beginning of the fourth quarter to give THS a convincing 49-28 lead. Shortly after, both Thomas and Neal found the end zone once again to make the score 56-35.
Thomas finished with 47 carries for 368 rushing yards.
“They just lined up and ran right over us,” Rampy said. “You can’t get him down with one hand. You’ve got to get four or five people to bring him down.”
Neal finished with 270 rushing yards on 21 carries.
From then on, THS kept pounding the ball inside with Thomas and Harden to run out the clock and effectively end the game.
“They’re big and physical,” Rampy said. “It’s a physical win for them. We played pretty good at the beginning, just couldn’t hang on.”
After the game, Rampy made sure to let the team know in the postgame huddle how proud of he was of the progress made this season.
“They should hold their heads up because they have nothing to be ashamed of,” Rampy said. “They’ve come a long way, but we’re not where we want to be yet.”
LHS ends the season with a record of 8-2, a significant improvement from its 2018 record of 1-8.
“It’s a huge turnaround and it boosts our program,” Neal said. “We showed Kansas just who we are. Our hard work from the spring really showed. And I think we can continue to grind on that and rely on our hard work.”
Topeka High 56, Lawrence High 35
LHS | THS
First downs 15 | 25
Rushes-yards 23-296 | 63-448
Passing yards 10-27-129 | 3-11-69
Total offense 425 | 517
Fumbles-lost 1-1 | 2-0
Interceptions 0 | 1
Penalties-yards 3-20 | 5-50
Score by quarters
Topeka High 14 21 7 14 — 56
Lawrence High 14 0 14 7 — 35
LHS: Devin Neal 21-270, Tre’ Jackson 2-26
THS: Ky Thomas 47-368, Da’Vonshai Harden 16-80
LHS: Jackson Dooley 10-27-129
THS: Da’Vonshai Harden 3-11-69
LHS: Chris McGee 4-44, Tre’ Jackson 2-46, Ben King 2-22, Devin Neal 1-14, Deshon Lewis 1-3
THS: Ky Thomas 1-45, Geivonnii Williams 1-20, Kaden Smith 1-4
HOW THEY SCORED
8:59 — Devin Neal 1 run. Connor Gellender kick good. (LHS 7, THS 0)
6:43 — Ky Thomas 2 run. Tae Thomas kick good. (LHS 7, THS 7)
4:46 — Devin Neal 48 run. Gellender kick good. (LHS 14, THS 7)
3:05 — Ky Thomas 2 run. Tae Thomas kick good. (LHS 14, THS 14)
11:14 — Ky Thomas 51 run. Tae Thomas kick good. (THS 21, LHS 14)
9:19 — Tylan Alejos 60 run. Tae Thomas kick good. (THS 28, LHS 14)
2:08 — Da’Vonshai Harden 10 run. Tae Thomas kick good. (THS 35, LHS 14)
7:44 — Tre’ Jackson 45 reception. Gellender kick good. (THS 35, LHS 21)
6:32 — Ky Thomas 9 run. Tae Thomas kick good. (THS 42, LHS 21)
6:12 — Neal 76 run. Gellender kick good. (THS 42, LHS 28)
11:08 — Ky Thomas 3 run. Tae Thomas kick good. (THS 49, LHS 28)
5:46 — Ky Thomas 2 run. Tae Thomas kick good. (THS 56, LHS 28)
4:57 — Neal 49 run. Gellender kick good. (THS 56, LHS 35)