FSHS football knocks off Lawrence High in thrilling City Showdown

photo by: Mike Yoder

Free State running back Tyler Bowden (31) rushes through Lawrence High defenders in a game at LHS Friday night on Oct. 25, 2019.

As soon as Lawrence High quarterback Jackson Dooley’s fourth down pass attempt fell harmlessly to the turf, Free State’s defense sprinted to the sideline in celebration with 3:19 remaining in the game.

The FSHS crowd roared in approval, as the failed conversion essentially capped off a thrilling City Showdown on Friday night at LHS. Free State secured a 31-30 win, notching its fourth consecutive victory in this crosstown clash.

FSHS now owns a 15-8 advantage in the all-time series.

“It was big when we got that fourth-down stop at the end,” Free State’s first-year head coach Kevin Stewart said. “The main thing we talked about (at halftime) was composure. I told them that if we clean those up, we’d be able to get right back in the game.”

With the win, the Firebirds (7-1) closed out the 2019 campaign on a six-game win streak. The Lions (7-1, No. 2 in Class 6A) suffered their first loss of the season.

“I think it can (help us get back on track),” senior linebacker Cole Morris said. “It reminds us where we came from last year with the loss and how it feels. It is going to make us work even harder, we don’t want to feel this again.”

But the 23rd edition of the City Showdown lived up the hype, in what was considered the best rivalry matchup since 2012.

After trailing by a 21-10 margin at halftime, the Firebirds were given new life after a pair of turnovers early in the second half. Lawrence fumbled on the opening kickoff return, and Free State scored three plays later on a 28-yard touchdown run by Tyler Bowden to trim the deficit.

One possession later, senior Wyatt Durland picked off a pass attempt by Dooley in the endzone. The Firebirds promptly scored six plays later on a 30-yard touchdown run by Bowden, who shoved off multiple tackle attempts en route to an impressive scoring run.

“After that, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, we got this,'” senior Malik Berry said. “We just needed to keep up the momentum.”

LHS answered on the next drive, when Neal punched things in from 1-yard out to cap off a 11-play drive. Malik Berry, who took over as starting quarterback in the second half after Jet Dineen earned the start, had the last laugh. He delivered a 1-yard sneak on the next drive that proved to be the go-ahead score.

The Lions then made things interesting on a safety by junior Corban Oberzan with 5:03 remaining. Lawrence was then ultimately stopped on the final drive, which ended with Dooley throwing an incomplete pass on 4th-and-5 from its own 35-yard line.

“I expected a little bit better on the defensive side of the ball,” Morris said. “There are a lot of errors that we need to get fixed.”

But the latest installment of the City Showdown had it all.

The two dynamic running backs shouldered their respective offenses on the night. Bowden had 287 yards and two scores on 27 carries behind Free State’s offensive line of Turner Corcoran, Ryan Lutz, Tyler Gourley, MJ Issa and Frankie Calderon.

“Tyler is a warrior,” Stewart said. “People don’t know how hard he works in the weight room. He’s the hardest worker on the team. He’s just got a big heart too.”

Neal scored thrice, while accumulating 226 yards on 42 attempts, thanks to the blocking by Lawrence’s offensive line of Noah Smith, Acen Villegas, Porter Dannevik, Lane Luna and Drew Meyer. Senior Chris McGee netted a team-high six catches for 64 yards.

Now, Lawrence will turn its attention to the postseason after an impressive regular season. The Lions went 7-1 after winning just one game in all of 2018 during their first year under head coach Steve Rampy.

Last season, LHS lost to eventual state champion Derby in the first round of the 6A playoffs. This time around, Lawrence will be the No. 6 seed in the 6A West bracket and play host to Washburn Rural in the opening round.

“We have to keep our heads up,” Morris said. “That is one loss out of eight. We still have a whole playoffs ahead.”

Free State, meanwhile, ends its 2018 campaign on a six-game win streak and will be the No. 5 seed in the 6A West. FSHS plays host to No. 12 Wichita South in the opening round next week.

For now, though, the Firebirds are going to relish a hard-fought win and hope it is a sign that they are hitting their stride at the right time.

“Coming into this, we knew we were the underdogs,” Berry said. “Coming out as the underdogs always feels good. It wasn’t given to us, this whole week of practice we talked about culture. I think we handled our business pretty well.”

Free State 31, Lawrence High 30

FS | LHS

First downs 12 | 24

Rushes-yards 40-311 | 47-244

Passing yards 84 | 180

Total offense 395 | 424

Fumbles-lost 3-1 | 1-1

Interceptions 0 | 1-0

Penalties-yards 15-140| 16-115

Individual statistics

Rushing

FS: Tyler Bowden 27-287, Jet Dineen 1-3, Tae Tainey 1-9, Malik Berry 8-24. Team sacks: 3-(minus 12)

LHS: Graham Hough 3-6, Devin Neal 42-226, Tre’ Jackson 1-4, Chris McGee 1-8.

Passing

FS: Jet Dineen 4-7-67, Malik Berry 1-1-17.

LHS: Jackson Dooley 18-32-180

Receiving

FS: Marcus Preston 1-44, Tyler Bowden 1-14, Tae Rainey 3-26.

LHS: Chris McGee 6-64, Tre’ Jackson 5-51, Devin Neal 4-28, Ben King 1-4, Graham Hough 1-17, John Green 1-16.

Score by quarters

Free State 0 10 14 7 — 31

Lawrence High 7 14 7 2 — 30

HOW THEY SCORED

First quarter

6:38 — Devin Neal 1 run. Connor Gellender kick good. (LHS 7, FS 0)

Second quarter

11:57 — Malik Berry 1 run. Joey Wood kick good. (FS 7, LHS 7)

7:58 — Neal 1 run. Gellender kick good. (LHS 14, FS 7)

3:53 — Wood 35 kick good. (LHS 14, FS 10)

4.3 — Tre’ Jackson 9 pass from Jackson Dooley. Gellender kick good. (LHS 21, FS 10)

Third quarter

11:16 — Tyler Bowden 28 run. Wood kick good. (LHS 21, FS 17)

6:28 — Bowden 30 run. Wood kick good. (FS 24, LHS 21)

1:41 — Neal 1 run. Gellender kick good. (LHS 28, FS 24)

Fourth quarter

10:14 — Berry 1 run. Wood kick good. (FS 31, LHS 28)

5:03 — Safety forced by Lawrence. (FS 31, LHS 30)

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