Big plays are a precious commodity this time of high school football season, even when they come in unorthodox fashion.
By TODD ENGLE
Special to The Star
Lawrence Free State banked a couple of, well, odd touchdowns late in the first half of Friday’s Kansas Class 6A quarterfinal against Olathe East.
Those scores turned out to be all the cushion the stingy Firebird defense needed in a 28-17 victory.
The first unusual touchdown was a 72-yard option to Joe Dineen that put Free State up for good, 14-10, with 3 minutes, 28 seconds left in the first half. Dineen was able to fly up the left sideline because quarterback Kyle McFarland shoveled him the ball with a chest pass at the last possible moment.
“It was crazy. Every practice, the coaches get on us. They tell us to stay with the guy cause you never know what’s going to happen,” Dineen said. “I tried to stay with him, he saw something, and I was ready for it.”
Ugly? Yep. Effective? You betcha.
“Not the prettiest,” McFarland conceded. “But it worked.”
Dineen finished with 130 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Free State, 10-1, was back in the end zone exactly one minute later on Blake Winslow’s 26-yard scoop-and-score. The play itself was straightforward enough. The awarding of the touchdown was a bit of an adventure, though.
“When I got in the end zone, I was looking at (the referee) and he didn’t know what to call,” Winslow said. “And he finally just raised his hands.”
The Free State sideline went nuts, but the celebration was subdued while the officials discussed the play for a few minutes before upholding their initial ruling.
“It just seemed like it was years,” Winslow said with a grin.
Those plays helped Free State overcome a litany of other mistakes, including three turnovers and 85 penalty yards.
“We literally did everything we could to lose that game. We turned the ball over, we had penalties. We just weren’t ready for the game,” McFarland said.
It helped that Olathe East managed only 146 yards of offense against the Firebird defense. The Hawks’ biggest plays came on the heels of Free State turnovers. They never were able to sustain a drive, however.
The usual end-of-season emotions were flowing following the loss. The Hawks finished the season 6-5, which is a long way from where they were a few weeks ago.
“They were the better team to beat us. They’ve had a super year. But the kids came back from being 1-4 to a 6-5 record, so I’m proud of my kids,” East coach Jeff Meyers said.
The victory set up a state semifinal game between Free State and Shawnee Mission West.