Lawrence High football suffers season-ending defeat to Derby in quarterfinals
photo by: Carter Gaskins
Aside from the opening play of the game, nearly everything that could have gone wrong did during Lawrence High’s 40-20 loss to Derby Friday night in the Class 6A quarterfinals.
The Lions couldn’t get much going offensively, and the defense had its back against the wall with short field position because of it. The LHS special teams unit had its fair share of miscues as well.
It all added up to Lawrence’s lone loss of the 2020 campaign, which was the one that did this team in. LHS, which was the top-ranked team in Class 6A entering Friday and the No. 1 seed in the Class 6A West, ended the year with a 9-1 overall record.
“I didn’t see that coming,” LHS head coach Steve Rampy said. “They were a lot better than us. They were bigger, stronger and more physical than us on both sides of the ball.”
Derby (7-2, No. 3 in Class 6A) will advance to the semifinals next week to take on No. 2 Junction City. The Panthers, who have won the last two state titles, are now one win away from their sixth consecutive trip to the state championship game.
It would probably have taken a perfect performance by the Lions to knock off the defending champions. The first half was anything but that. Perhaps no sequence illustrated that better than a play in the final minute of the second quarter.
LHS senior linebacker Karson Green stuffed Derby quarterback Lem Wash on third down, recording the team’s biggest stop of the night to that point. On fourth-and-five, the Panthers lined up to punt from their own territory with 47.1 remaining.
It appeared to be a chance for the Lions to get something going just before the break. Instead, they were flagged for too many men on the field and gave the Panthers a fresh set of downs.
“It felt like Friday the 13th,” Rampy said. “You can’t explain that.”
Plenty of other miscues happened in the first half for the Lions. Lawrence tailback Devin Neal couldn’t find any holes to get the run game going. Senior quarterback Jackson Dooley was called for intentional grounding on a pass where he thought senior receiver John Green was in the area.
On the other side of the ball, Derby started in LHS territory on its first four possessions of the night to jump out to a 33-6 advantage at the intermission.
“We had been physical on defense all year,” Rampy said. “We couldn’t get our defense off the field. Our offense didn’t really play well the first half. We just didn’t see them as that physical of a football team on film than they were tonight.”
But before Derby’s dominance began, the very beginning of the first half actually looked like a picture-perfect start for the Lions.
Junior Truman Juelsgaard forced and recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff, giving Lawrence the ball on the opposition’s 13-yard line. Four plays later, which included one run by senior Graham Hough, Lawrence grabbed an early advantage on a 3-yard touchdown run by Neal.
Senior kicker Connor Gellender then missed the extra-point-attempt because of a low snap, and things took a turn for the worse after that.
Derby sophomore Dylan Edwards responded by taking the ensuing kickoff to the house to even things up. The Panthers missed their PAT, but the momentum had fully swung in their favor from that moment on.
“Things like that, you can’t do that against a really good team,” Rampy said. “I still have a hard time believing that we win, because they are big and physical. But you have to cover the kick.”
The Lions coughed up the ball a few plays later on a fumble of their own. It allowed Derby to start on Lawrence’s 37-yard line, and the visitors took their first lead of the night on a 4-yard touchdown connection between Wash and junior Drake Thatcher to cap off an 8-play possession.
All four of the Panthers’ first four drives began in LHS territory. Derby scored a touchdown on each trip thanks to a two-headed rushing attack from Wash and Edwards. Wash scored on two rushing touchdowns in the first half, and Edwards added one of his own just before halftime.
The Lions still showed plenty of fight throughout their final half of the 2020 season.
Neal, who is committed to Kansas, managed to find more success on the ground over the final two quarters. Noah Smith, Acen Villegas, Porter Dannevik, Lane Luna and Drew Meyer opened up a few holes for the standout tailback in his final game as a Lion.
Neal finished with 177 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries to cap off a remarkable senior campaign. Through the air, Dooley was able to link up with senior Tre’ Jackson and Green more often in the second half.
On defense, senior Dylan Gillespie recovered a fumble on Derby’s lone takeaway of the second half. Seniors Teagan Flynn, Cole Mondi, Corban Oberzan, Preston Greenwood and Trevor Baars each delivered a stop by the end of the night.
“We put together a pretty decent dive a couple times,” Rampy said of the second half. “We just couldn’t finish them. Derby gets the credit, not us. They are really good.”
Derby 40, Lawrence 20
LHS | DHS
First downs 14 | 13
Rushes-yards 41-176 | 43-203
Passing yards 117 | 52
Total offense 293 | 255
Fumbles-lost 2-2 | 3-1
Interceptions 0 | 0
Penalties-yards 5-40 | 1-10
Score by quarters
Derby 19 14 7 0 — 40
Lawrence 6 0 0 14 — 20
DHS: Lem Wash 15-63, Dylan Edards 19-153, Deshawn Wright 5-4. Sacks: 4-(minus 17).
LHS: Devin Neal 30-177, Graham Hough 7-33. Sacks: 4-(minus 34)
DHS: Lem Wash 4-for-4 for 52 yards.
LHS: Jackson Dooley 10-for-14 for 117 yards.
DHS: Drake Thatcher 1-4, Reid Luston 2-34, Dylan Edwards 1-14.
LHS: Tre’ Jackson 5-80, Devin Neal 1-(minus 1), Ben King 1-9, John Green 4-39.
HOW THEY SCORED
10:10 — Devin Neal 1 run. Connor Gellender kick missed. (LHS 6, DHS 0)
9:57 — Dylan Edwards 80 kickoff return. Scott Simons kick missed. (LHS 6, DHS 6)
5:09 — Drake Thatcher 4 pass from Lem Wash. Kick blocked. (DHS 12, LHS 6)
24.0 — Wash 1 run. Simons kick good. (DHS 19, LHS 6)
9:07 — Wash 3 run. Simons kick good. (DHS 26, LHS 6)
3:54 — Edwards 1 run. Simons kick good. (DHS 33, LHS 6)
2:57 — Edwards 61 run. Simons kick good. (DHS 40, LHS 6)
4:05 — Neal 3 run. Gellender kick good. (DHS 40, LHS 13)
1:34 — Neal 65 run. Gellender kick good. (DHS 40, LHS 20)