Special to The Gardner News
In a battle of contrasting styles, Lawrence High’s prodigious passing attack bested Gardner Edgerton’s powerful running game.
But just barely.
The Lions nipped the Blazers 34-32 in a first round 6A playoff matchup that was a classic, featuring two of the state’s best players, loads of offense and a dramatic ending.
Lawrence didn’t take long to crank up their aerial show, using a 75-yard halfback option pass on their first play from scrimmage to go in front 8-0.
That touchdown came after GE had turned it over on downs on their first offensive series-a series that had reached the Lion 36 yard line before a quarterback sack thwarted the drive.
Another mistake hurt the Blazers the next time they had the ball. Relying mainly on the legs of tremendously talented Traevohn Wrench, GE reached the LHS 12-yard line before a holding call forced the Blazers to settle for a 31-yard Tim Mitchell field goal to cut the gap to 8-3 at the 3:49 mark of the first period.
The Lions took only three plays to up the lead to 14-3, scoring on a 53-yard TD pass. Lawrence, led by all-state quarterback Brad Strauss, was nearly unstoppable in the passing game all night, going for 394 yards.
GE would counter with their rushing attack, narrowing the lead to 14-10 on their next possession. Wrench accounted for nearly all of the yardage on that possession with a 27-yard effort being the key. Quarterback Jared Hobbe did have a pass completion to Josh Lang on the drive which ended in a one yard TD run by Wrench. Wrench finished the contest with 310 yards, his fourth straight over the 300-yard threshold.
Both teams would score one more touchdown before he break-the Lions on a 22-yard pass and the Blazers on a fantastic fourth down 16-yard aerial strike from Hobbe to JaylonRadel.
While neither side punted the entire evening, the GE defense was able to use turnovers to stop several Lawrence scoring opportunities. The first of those turnovers came in the waning moments of the first half when Tommy McLennon intercepted a Strauss pass in the end zone to stop a Lion drive and keep the game close at 22-14 at the intermission.
That break did not slow down the LHS passing game. Keyed by a 55-yard completion, the Lions extended the lead to 28-17 on the first possession of the second half, scoring on a three yard run.
The Blazers answered, using a 14-play drive which culminated with a three yard run by Wrench. That score cut the lead to 28-24 with 2:28 left in the third period.
Lawrence remained unstoppable. The Lions marched right down the field to score another TD-a 3 yard run that made it 34-24 with 11:53 to play in this classic.
GE would not go away, going 57 yards in five plays to score. Big plays on that drive were a Hobbe to Josh Lang 24-yard pass completion and the TD run, a 27-yard dash to paydirt by Wrench.
Another huge play came on the two-point conversion which the Blazers converted to cut the gap to 34-32.
Just over ten minutes were left in the game and those ten minutes were dripping in drama.
LHS continued their offensive dominance, having success in both the running and passing attack to get deep in enemy territory on their next possession.
But the GE defense came up with a big stop, forcing a fumble which they recovered on their own 15-yard line with 6:38 to play in the game.
The Blazers used two long runs by Wrench to reach the Lion 37 before the drive ended on a huge fourth down stop by LHS.
Now just three minutes remained and GE was going to need to halt a Lion offense that was clicking on all cylinders.
The Blazers got that stop, getting a big fumble recovery on a Stauss run which had reached deep into enemy territory.
Just over two minutes were left in the contest, giving GE a shot to pull this one out. Using two pass completions from Hobbe to Radel and Jamain Lang along with some signature Wrench rushes, the Blazers were able to get to the Lion 18 before the drive stalled with twelve seconds to play in the game. A 35-yard field goal attempt came up just short and Lawrence celebrated the emotional win.
”When you get to this point of the season, you’re going to go against another very, very good football teams and we faced one tonight. Our boys gave it their all,” said head coach Marvin Diener after the game.
The Blazers ended 6-4, winning five of their final six games. Returning next season will be 10 of 11 offensive starters and two starters on defensive. A talented junior varsity squad will join that group, giving GE fans reason to hope for next season.