LHS slips by Dodge City 23-20 in first-round 6A playoff battle

photo by: Landon Cory/Special to the Journal-World

Lawrence High sophomore returner and safety Josh Galbreath celebrates after scoring the game-winning touchdown in a 23-20 win over Dodge City in the first round of the 6A state playoff on Oct. 27, 2023, at LHS.

It wasn’t pretty, but No. 6 seed Lawrence High toughed out a 23-20 win over No. 11 seed Dodge City in the first round of the 6A state football playoff on Friday night at home.

Trailing 13-10 at halftime, the Chesty Lions (7-2) went toe-to-toe with the Red Demons (3-6) right down to the final minutes – claiming the lead on a 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by sophomore Josh Galbreath – to earn a seat in the second-round game at No. 3 seed Derby (8-1) next week.

Galbreath, receiving the kickoff after Dodge City junior quarterback Alan Flores sent LHS down 20-16 with a short-yardage touchdown dive, said his first-career touchdown – soaked in postseason imagery – didn’t exactly come together the way he always dreamed.

“I was expecting a squib kick and I saw it flying down and I was like, ‘uh, oh,'” Galbreath said. “I was waiting for it to bounce and it bounced high and off my helmet… once I got ahold of it, I took off and was running whenever I saw green.”

Seeing most of that green turf on the left side of the field, Galbreath took off down the left sideline and lifted the ball in the air upon reaching the pay dirt. The score capped off a roller coaster night that saw LHS going back and forth with the Red Demons through four quarters.

As usual, junior quarterback Banks Bowen (6 of 15, 112 yards) found himself at the center of the Lions’ offense with 17 carries for 125 yards. LHS senior tailback Tony Jacobsen also got plenty of work on the ground, taking 16 touches for 70 yards.

Spelling trouble for Dodge City’s secondary were LHS receivers Gabe Wingerd (two catches for 58 yards, one touchdown) and Jaxon Becker (three for 49).

The Lions, who won the coin toss, elected to open the game with possession and were stopped short of midfield and forced to punt. Riding high after the stop, Dodge City found the scoreboard first with a short-yardage touchdown run by junior fullback Ryan Gonzales midway through the first quarter.

Dodge City’s defense remained sturdy enough to force another stop on the following drive, but LHS seized a muffed punt by junior returner Jayden Amaro and came up with the special teams takeaway. Soon after, Bowen translated the turnover into six points quickly with a 26-yard touchdown run.

Keeping a closer eye on Flores, Galbreath and junior defensive tackle Larney Finney pressured the Red Demons’ quarterback enough to force the first punt of the game from Dodge City on fourth-and-26 headed into the second quarter.

Still early in the second quarter, LHS was charging into Dodge City territory inside the 20-yard line but a fourth-down gamble by Bowen on the ground forfeited possession back to the Red Demons with 9:36 left in the first half.

Rolling again behind Gonzales, Dodge City crossed midfield and looked poised for another shot at the end zone until a handoff to junior fullback Cade Barnett went loose and LHS senior safety Zander Thomas was quick to get his hands on the football.

Back in control, LHS marched right up inside the Dodge City 10-yard line but settled for a 24-yard field goal from junior placekicker Andrei Lefort to take a 10-7 lead with 2:16 left in the first half.

Not keen on trailing at the break, the Red Demons zeroed in on the red zone with a 35-yard strike from Flores to Amaro, who hauled in an eight-yard touchdown pass against Thomas to send Dodge City up 13-10 just before the first-half bell rang.

Despite a pair of first-down throws by Flores, Dodge City didn’t return to the second half with the same urgency that earned them the lead late in the first half and punted away near midfield on their first drive back.

Rallying LHS up to the Red Demons’ 22-yard line on the following drive, Bowen took multiple shots at the end zone but never found his man, coughing up another turnover on downs still early in the third quarter.

Clint Bowen said the Red Demons’ defense clearly spends a lot of time in the weight room.

“They were cutting offense lineman which is very unusual,” he said. “In 29 years of coaching, I’ve never had a defensive line cut an offensive line and it had a big impact on our performance… It took us a while to get in a rhythm to get going and get drives rolling.”

The Lions’ defense posted bail mere moments after Dodge City’s stop, when LHS junior safety Jaylen Parks picked off Flores to turn possession right back around. After the pick, Bowen found Wingerd for a practically uncontested 34-yard touchdown pass with 5:54 left to go in the third quarter.

Riding off another stop, LHS upped their tempo and were eagerly looking for another score on their next drive. Those plans fell through the floor when Jacobsen fumbled the ball near midfield and Dodge City senior Ty Scheck came up with the recovery.

Carrying that takeaway into the fourth, Dodge City got inside the LHS 10-yard line with 8:55 remaining. Opting to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Lions’ 5-yard line, Flores had little time to find his target before LHS junior safety Ben Marker came crashing in for the sack forcing a turnover on downs.

Locking in, Dodge City’s defense kept LHS from getting much done on the back end of the turnover and soon had the Lions punting away deep in their own territory.

The Red Demons, setting up their next drive from their own 32-yard line, fought all they way back to the LHS 1-yard line and got that highly-sought score on a quick-punch run by Flores to send Dodge City up 20-16 with just 2:42 left to go.

Scrambling after the score, LHS received a huge break when Galbreath, slotted back to return the ensuing kickoff, took it 88 yards to the house to snatch the lead right back, putting the Lions up 23-20 with 2:24 left on the clock.

With one more shot, Dodge City tried and failed to reproduce its scoring drive when Galbreath – the man of the evening – hit Flores mid-pass on third down to bring up a last-ditch fourth-down attempt that, ultimately, fell incomplete.

Gritting out the win, LHS will travel to No. 3 seed Derby, fresh off a 56-7 first-round win over No. 14 Topeka High, next Friday. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

It’s familiar territory for the Lions, who’ve dropped two consecutive postseason battles at Derby since 2021. For LHS’ starting quarterback, it means another shot at their foes from Wichita. “It’s definitely more personal this year,” Banks Bowen said. “I feel like we can say we’re used to going there… I think it’s the playoff mentality, win or go home, snap after snap.”


Dodge City 7 6 0 7 – 20

Lawrence 7 3 6 7 – 23


First downs 17 | 12

Rushes-yards 34-128 | 34-197

Passing yards 188 | 112

Total offense 316 | 309

Fumbles-lost 2 | 1

Interceptions 1 | 0

Penalties-yards 2-25 | 1-5



5:56 – DC touchdown: Gonzales 2 run. Ojeda kick is good. (LHS 0, DC 7)

3:11 – LHS touchdown: Bowen 26 run. Lefort kick is good. (LHS 7, DC 7)


2:16 – LHS field goal: Lefort 24 kick is good. (LHS 10, DC 7)

0:26 – DC touchdown: Amaro 8 pass from Flores. Ojeda kick is no good. (LHS 10, DC 13)


5:54 – LHS touchdown: Wingerd 34 pass from Bowen. Lefort kick is no good. (LHS 16, DC 13)


2:42 – DC touchdown: Flores 1 run. Ojeda kick is good. (LHS 16, DC 20)

2:24 – LHS touchdown: Galbreath 88 return. Lefort kick is good. (LHS 23, DC 20)


Rushing: DC – Gonzales 17-63; Flores 9-28; Barnett 4-22; Howard 2-6; Aguilera 1-5; Bone 1-4; LHS – Bowen 17-125, Jacobsen 16-70, Paul 1-2.

Passing: DC – Flores 15-28, 188; LHS – Bowen 6-15, 112.

Receiving: DC – Amaro 10-129, Okoro 4-47; LHS – Wingerd 2-58, Becker 3-49, Mosiman 1-5.

photo by: Landon Cory/Special to the Journal-World

Lawrence sophomore Josh Galbreath returns a late fourth quarter kickoff for a touchdown against Dodge City on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.

photo by: Landon Cory/Special to the Journal-World

Lawrence High defensive back Jaylen Parks intercepts a pass against Dodge City on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023

photo by: Landon Cory/Special to the Journal-World

Lawrence running back Tony Jacobsen rushes for a first down against Dodge City High School on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.

photo by: Landon Cory/Special to the Journal-World

Lawrence running back Tony Jacobsen hurdles a Dodge City defender on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.

photo by: Landon Cory/Special to the Journal-World

Lawrence defensive lineman Larney Finney pressures the Dodge City quarterback on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.

photo by: Landon Cory/Special to the Journal-World

Lawrence safety Josh Galbreath records a sack against Dodge City High School on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.

photo by: Landon Cory/Special to the Journal-World

Lawrence quarterback Banks Bowen scrambles for a touchdown against Dodge City High School on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.


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