Free State falls to Olathe East rushing attack in 1st loss of season
photo by: Carter Gaskins
Free State, with no timeouts remaining, elected to run the ball on third down with junior running back Tyler Bowden. Bowden gained only five yards, leaving the clock running and the Firebirds in a frenzy to kick a field goal.
Junior kicker Joey Wood managed to set up on the field in time for a 48-yard, buzzer-beating field goal.
This frantic pace encapsulates an undisciplined effort in Free State’s 26-17 loss to Olathe East as the Firebirds fall to 1-1 under first-year head coach Kevin Stewart.
“I told these guys coming in that Olathe East was good; they only lost to Olathe North by a touchdown last week and Olathe North’s one of the top teams in the state,” Stewart said. “I don’t know if they took my message seriously. We just weren’t ready to play football.”
Coming off a 45-19 win over Olathe West last week, Free State slowed down and cooled off to open the game, leaning heavily on Bowden carrying the ball.
Even though Bowden did manage 87 yards on the ground in the first quarter alone, the Firebirds couldn’t muster any points in the first period. Those struggles can also be said for Olathe East as the Hawks didn’t take advantage of any Free State miscues.
“(Bowden’s) a good football player and he’s carrying us right now,” Stewart said. “So we’ve got to find some more options and find ways to distribute the ball a little bit more. It’s hard when you’ve got one guy carrying the ball all the time; everybody knows he’s getting the ball.”
However, the game opened up in the second quarter for both sides.
Free State finally broke through with a drive led by Bowden and orchestrated by senior quarterback Colter Maldonado. Bowden punctuated the drive with a 8-yard touchdown, and the Firebirds found themselves up 7-0 with just over nine minutes left in the first half.
Olathe East fired back, though, capitalizing on a fumble from Free State wide receiver Jay Taylor on a punt return. Hawks junior running back Ma’rrell Fountain took the snap in a wildcat formation for a 6-yard touchdown.
However, the Hawks missed the extra point, so Free State maintained a 7-6 lead.
Free State, hoping to extend the lead, fired off another long drive down the field, even converting a third-and-14 from midfield on a Maldonado 20-yard pass to senior wide receiver Marcus Preston.
The Firebirds failed to score, though, thanks to a miscommunication on the snap on a field goal attempt.
And even though Olathe East tried to run out the clock, the Hawks’ punt only traveled to their own 36-yard line, leading to Wood’s field goal.
Amid fumbling the ball three times, losing two, the Firebirds clung to a 10-6 halftime lead.
Olathe East came out of the break aggressive and more composed than the Hawks had looked all game, driving down the field led by Fountain breaking the 100-yard mark and scoring another touchdown out of the wildcat.
The Hawks gained four first downs on that drive alone — emphasized by a 31-yard burst by Fountain — taking a 13-10 lead and putting the pressure back on the Firebirds to respond.
And respond they did, leaning on Bowden once again and breaking through with a 14-yard scamper for a touchdown from Bowden to take a 17-13 lead with 2:01 left in the third quarter.
But with more undisciplined miscues from Free State — including three personal foul penalties against the Firebirds — Olathe East sophomore quarterback Austin Berggren managed to drive back down the field, finding junior wide receiver Darius Bibbs for a 6-yard touchdown.
“We had some good effort there, but we just weren’t prepared to take care of the victory tonight and we couldn’t get the win because of turnovers, sloppy plays, little things,” Stewart said.
The battle on the ground continued and worked into the Hawks’ favor, with Olathe East adding to its lead with a 20-yard quarterback draw from Berggren to make the score 26-17, enough for the Hawks to secure the victory.
“We need to be more of a team for us to achieve our goals,” Stewart said. “And we’re not really a team right now.”
Free State will next take on Shawnee Mission North at home Friday, Sept. 20.
Olathe East 26, Free State 17
FS | OE
First downs 12 | 12
Rushes-yards 32-207 | 47-253
Passing yards 6-17-57 | 4-8-37
Total offense 264 | 290
Fumbles-lost 4-2 | 1-0
Interceptions 1-1 | XX
Penalties-yards 5-55 | 2-10
Score by quarters
Free State X 10 7 X — 17
Olathe East X 6 7 13 — 26
FS: Tyler Bowden 25-183, Tae Rainey 2-2, Jay Taylor 2-23, Colter Maldonado 2-3
OE: Ma’rrell Fountain 34-190, Austin Berggren 13-63
FS: Colter Maldonado 6-17-57
OE: Austin Berggren 4-8-37
FS: Marcus Preston 3-34, Tae Rainey 2-6, Tyler Bowden 1-17
OE: Ma’rrell Fountain 1-2, Darius Bibbs 2-14, Andrew Sonner 1-21
HOW THEY SCORED
9:09 — Tyler Bowden 8 run. Joey Wood kick good. (FS 7, OE 0)
5:37 — Ma’rrell Fountain 6 run. Zaden Marroquin kick no good. (FS 7, OE 6)
0:00 — Joey Wood 48 kick good. (FS 10, OE 6)
7:33 — Ma’rrell Fountain 2 run. Zaden Marroquin kick good. (FS 10, OE 13)
2:01 — Tyler Bowden 14 run. Joey Wood kick good. (FS 17, OE 13)
7:15 — Darius Bibbs 6 reception. Zaden Marroquin kick no good. (FS 17, OE 19)
0:48 — Austin Berggren 20 run. Zaden Marroquin kick good. (FS 17, OE 26)