Pioneers can't slow down top-ranked Firebirds
Slowly Judson Cole peeled himself off the crisp, chilled fieldturf of Pioneer Stadium.
To his back celebrated a cheerful Lawrence Free State team, one who was enjoying the bow it just placed on a blow out victory.
In front stood a quiet Pioneer squad, stuck deep in the reflection that the just surrendered 51-yard interception returned for a touchdown was one of many miscues made Friday.
"I was pretty disappointed," LV coach Kevin Kopecky said. "We had four turnovers to their one against a team that is one of the top teams in the state. You can't do something like that and hope to win. So overall, I was disappointed in how we played in all phases of the game."
By night's end, Leavenworth's pile of errors kept the home team from pulling off the upset. Instead, the squad lost 47-14, its fourth-straight loss.
"We had too many mistakes," Kopecky said. "Just way too many mistakes."
It was a sluggish start for both teams. Four punts ended the opening four series until Free State struck with a 54-yard touchdown pass at 5:30 in the first quarter.
Following another Pioneer three and out, the Firebirds put together an 11-yard scoring drive that was capped off with an eight-yard run to start the second period.
"I thought if we settled in we would have a chance to compete with them," the LV coach said, "but it all went down hill from there."
Indeed it did. From that point on, the visitors took full control of the game. Leavenworth's offense never got started until the fourth quarter, neutralized by a Free State defense that forced four turnovers.
The stalled Pioneer attack led to an exhausted defensive unit, which gave up two more touchdowns before half — a one-yard run and 25-yard pass. Free State held a commanding 28-0 advantage at the break.
"I've been concerned about their defensive front all year," Kopecky saaid. "They run a 3-3-stack and bring a lot of pressure and we just had some communication issues going against it."
Down a quartet of touchdowns, Leavenworth received the opening kick and drove into Firebirds' territory before a fumble abruptly ended the possession.
Free State converted the takeaway into seven more points with a four-yard run. Another four-yard TD scamper at 1:09 placed the scoreboard at 41-0 at the end of three quarters.
The visitors tacked on six more points in the fourth before the Pioneers' finally tasted pay dirt thanks a 99-yard Randall kickoff return.
Leavenworth then scored on its next series as Landry Hodges used speed and strength to sprint for an 12-yard TD run. Seven minutes later, the game ended 47-14.
Unofficially, Randall had over 225 total yards, 51 yards rushing on 21 carries and 174 return yards. Quarterback Judson Cole finished 7-for-17 for 41 yards passing while Hodges accumulated 19 yards passing on two completions and 30 yards rushing. Eli Keppler was the team's leading receiver with five catches for 57 yards.
"What else can you say," Kopecky said. "They have a good defense and a really good football team."
Leavenworth, 3-5 and 0-2 in district play, will host Wyandotte at 7 p.m. Friday in its regular season finale.