Preview: LHS riding late-season climb into first-round matchup with Dodge City in 6A state playoff

photo by: Mike Shaw/Special to the Journal-World

The Lawrence High football team runs onto the field before the game against Shawnee Mission West in Overland Park on Friday, Oct. 20, 2023.

A strong regular-season finish propelled Lawrence High into the No. 6 seed in the west division of the 6A state football playoffs, earning the Chesty Lions (6-2) a home-field advantage against No. 11 seed Dodge City (3-5) in the first round on Friday.

The Lions, not long ago, had several lingering questions about their offense entering the City Showdown with then-unbeaten Free State in Week 7; however, LHS proved itself capable of overcoming the injury bug and banding together for a 31-24 overtime victory.

Launching into the postseason following a 56-3 rout of Shawnee Mission West, LHS returns home to test itself against a Red Demons team fresh off snapping its four-game losing streak with a 41-12 win in its home regular-season finale against No. 15 seed Wichita-Southeast (1-7) last Friday.

After dropping its Week 2 matchup at home to No. 8 seed Junction City (5-3), Dodge City went on to lose four more games by two or more scores from late September to just last week.

The Lions’ opponent, head coach Clint Bowen said, is capable of far more than its record indicates.

“(Dodge City’s) offense is very interesting,” Bowen said. “They’re a little bit of everything … they’re a flexbone team and then they’ll break it off and be an air raid team … they’re a good team that creates a few problems with us just with the amount of stuff they do offensively.”

At the controls for the Red Demons is junior quarterback Alan Flores, who’s amassed 948 passing yards and six touchdowns and five interceptions entering the postseason. Senior wideouts Tochi Okoro and junior Jayden Amaro, Flores’ two favorite targets, each surpassed 200 receiving yards during the regular season.

Pitted against the Lions’ triple-threat offense of junior quarterback Banks Bowen and senior tailbacks Malcolm Paul and Tony Jacobsen, Dodge City will be challenged through the air and on the ground. The LHS offense has racked up 951 yards of total offense since Week 7.

“I’m happy with the progress of our offense,” Bowen said. “The offensive line’s doing a nice job, the passing game is starting to get timed up, Banks is starting to make some really good throws and getting out of the pocket and scrambling … The offense is starting to click.”

On the ground, Dodge City is led by junior fullback Ryan Gonzales. During the regular season, Gonzales averaged 5.0 yards per carry on 86 carries for 427 yards and five touchdowns. Flores also has a penchant for running the football, racking up 262 yards and five touchdowns on the ground during the regular season.

Bowen is faithful in his younger defense, though. The Lions regained junior free safety Jaylen Parks in Week 7 against FSHS – a key piece to LHS’ young secondary. Additionally, sophomores Devin Foster (a defensive end) and Bailey Johnson (a lineman) have upped their contributions the past few weeks, Bowen said.

“We’re keeping our eyes in coverage,” Bowen said. “We’re not busting coverages, we’re not giving up – minus the last drive of the Free State game – we haven’t had a whole lot of guys just running free down the field. I think defensively, they’re starting to understand and starting to get a little better at the right time.”

Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at LHS.


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