Free State football team picks up first win of season on late touchdown drive

Free State senior running back Tay Ware runs the ball during the game against Olathe East on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

Olathe — Led by a game-winning touchdown from running back Tay Ware in the final minute, the Free State football team earned its first win of the season Thursday night, taking down Olathe East 28-21 at the College Boulevard Activity Center.

The Firebirds came from behind in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 unanswered points, and then headed home happy with a win under their belts.

“It feels great, and I’m happy for our seniors,” FSHS head coach Kevin Stewart said. “They’re having a hard time winning games and they got a little more confidence now. They feel like they can win, and that’s good.”

Free State (1-2) wasted no time in scoring first, with a 44-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Wesley Edison putting the Firebirds on the board almost immediately with a 7-0 lead with 10:11 to play in the first quarter.

The Firebirds’ defense stood tall on its opening position, forcing a turnover on downs near midfield, gaining momentum and giving the ball back to the FSHS offense midway through the first quarter.

Moments later, Edison showed off his arm, launching a 41-yard touchdown pass to Bralin Preston for Free State’s second score of the opening quarter. The Firebirds led 14-0 just seven minutes into the game.

Throughout the rest of the first quarter, the defenses ruled and each side forced the opposing offense to give the ball back.

After Free State’s defense forced another turnover on downs, Olathe East (1-2) regained possession seconds later after Hunter Murphy intercepted Edison.

The Hawks’ offense quickly took advantage of the interception, scoring on an 11-yard run from Jaylen Proctor. That cut Free State’s lead to 14-7 with just over five and a half minutes to play in the second quarter.

After the touchdown drive by the Hawks, the Firebirds put together a long-lasting drive but couldn’t capitalize on it. They had to punt the ball back to Olathe East with 1:58 to play in the first half. But Olathe East couldn’t make anything happen either, and the Firebirds retained their 14-7 lead heading into halftime.

On the opening drive of the third quarter, Olathe East took nearly six minutes off the clock and cut Free State’s lead to 1 point, courtesy of a 4-yard touchdown run by Proctor. However, Free State blocked the extra point to stay in front, 14-13, with 6:29 remaining in the quarter.

After the Firebirds’ offense went three-and-out on its first drive of the second half, Olathe East had another touchdown run — again by Proctor, and again from 4 yards out. But this time, the Hawks had a successful 2-point conversion, and they took a 21-14 lead — their first of the night.

Free State did not let the Hawks’ momentum last, however. A solid kickoff return gave the Firebirds a favorable field position late in the third quarter. And then the Firebirds started the fourth quarter on fire, scoring early in the frame off a 25-yard touchdown pass from Edison to Cortez Overstreet to tie the score at 21 apiece.

Olathe East could not respond, and the Firebirds’ defense quickly forced the Hawks to punt, giving the ball back to the Free State offense with nine minutes left in regulation.

A crucial sack by Olathe East’s Michael Costello on third down forced Free State to punt, and the Hawks found themselves on the plus side of the field with six minutes remaining in the quarter. But Free State’s defense came up with its biggest stop of the game on Olathe East’s next drive, halting the Hawks’ advance on fourth and goal. As a result, Free State took over at its own 10-yard line with just under four minutes remaining.

“The defense played phenomenal most of the night,” Stewart said. “They had several stops in the red zone and goal line, which probably helped us win the game. I was just trying to manage the fourth quarter the best I could.”

Now, all Edison and the Firebirds needed to do was march 90 yards down the field.

After picking up a crucial fourth-down conversion, Edison threw a screen pass to Overstreet, who took it 25 yards to pick up another first down with now under two minutes remaining.

That set the stage for Ware, who took it in from 13 yards out to give his team the victory. He found an open seam and went in easily with two seconds left on the clock, and his teammates and fans went wild.

Free State tackled Olathe East on the kickoff to seal the deal on its first victory of the season.

The Firebirds will stay on the road in Week 4, taking on Shawnee Mission Northwest next Thursday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at SM North High School.

GAME STATS

Free State 28, Olathe East 21

FS | OE

First downs 12 | 15

Rushes-yards 39-164 | 43-248

Passing yards 127 | 78

Total offense 291 | 326

Fumbles-lost 0-0 | 0-0

Interceptions 1 | 0

Penalties-yards 7-65 | 7-65

Score by quarters

Free State 14 0 0 14 – 28

Olathe East 0 7 14 0 – 21

How they scored

1st Quarter:

10:11 – Wesley Edison 44 yard run. Adam Coup kick good. (FS 7 OE 0)

05:11 – Wesley Edison 41 yard pass to Bralin Preston. Coup kick good. (FS 14 OE 0)

2nd Quarter:

05:33 – Jalen Proctor 11 yard run. Cameron Speier kick good. (FS 14 OE 0)

3rd Quarter:

06:29 – Jalen Proctor 4 yard run. Speier kick failed. (FS 14 OE 13)

01:25 – Jalen Proctor 4 yard run. Two-point conversion is good. (OE 21 FS 14)

4th Quarter:

10:31 – Wesley Edison 25 yard pass to Cortez Overstreet. Coup kick good. (FS 21 OE 21)

00:02 – Tay Ware 13 yard run. Coup kick good. (FS 28 OE 21)

Individual statistics

Rushing:

FS: Wesley Edison 19-69; Tay Ware 18-78; Dylan Farrel 1-4; Devon Hamilton 1-13;

OE: Jaden Brown 5-47; Jalen Proctor 27-142; Ray Smith III 7-30; Jack Cornell 3-14; Gerard Reed III 1-15

Passing

FS: Wesley Edison 7-12-127

OE: Jack Cornell 9-17-78

Receiving

FS: Tay Ware 1-8; Devon Hamilton 3-28; Bralin Preston 1-41; Cortez Overstreet 2-50

OE: Jaden Brown 3-21; Ray Smith III 2-3; Gerard Reed III 2-9; Carter Gooding 1-31; Max Milligan 1-14

Free State junior quarterback Wesley Edison throws the ball during the game against Olathe East on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

Free State junior quarter back Wesley Edison during the game against Olathe East on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

Free State junior defensive back Johnnie Williams lines up against Olathe East on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

Free State coach Kevin Stewart observes his team during the game against Olathe East on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.

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