‘It is that time:’ Free State eliminated by MHS in Bob Lisher’s final game
photo by: Mike Yoder
Free State coach Bob Lisher was overcome with emotion in the moments following a 41-19 loss to Manhattan High Friday at FSHS in the 6A quarterfinals.
During his postgame speech with the team, Lisher officially told his players that he plans to retire at the end of the school year. It meant that Friday’s loss marked the end of his illustrious career. Each player then took turns hugging Lisher, who clutched his postseason plaque as he fought back tears.
“I will be retiring at the end of the school year,” Lisher said. “I’ve been doing it for 37 years, it is time for somebody else to step in. It is time for me to play with my grandkids, and get my surgeries and get my body fixed.”
Lisher has been the head coach since the Free State program was formed back in 1997.
“I knew going into this year that this would be it,” Lisher said. “It is time to hang them up. I love this sport, I love this game. I would love to be a part of this for the rest of my life. Sometimes you need to move on. It is that time.”
Under Lisher, FSHS has made 18 playoff appearances, including a trip to the 6A state title game in 2008. Free State extended its streak of quarterfinals appearances to seven straight this year. The Firebirds have made six appearances in the semifinals and netted five Sunflower League titles as well.
Lisher compiled a 148-85 during his prolific career at Free State.
“It is probably the biggest honor I have in my life to play for a coach like him,” senior Jaxson Webb said. “To play in his last game is something I will remember for the rest of my life. He will go down in the history of the state of Kansas as one of the best coaches.”
photo by: Carter Gaskins
The Firebirds (10-1) were unable to send their coach out on a positive note, as they were overmatched by the Indians (10-1) all night.
Senior running back Kevontae McDonald scored six touchdowns, including four in the first half, to lift Manhattan to the 6A semifinals for a meeting with No. 1 Derby. McDonald finished with 237 yards on 35 carries in the win. Sophomore quarterback Dayne Aschenbrenner also made correct reads, adding in 87 yards on 16 carries.
Free State’s offense, meanwhile, was shut down for the first time all season. The Firebirds only recorded two first downs in the game, both of which came in the first half. Dineen, who scored a 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, recorded 28 rushing yards on 11 carries. It snapped his nine-game streak of 100-yard outings.
Junior quarterback Malik Berry struggled to connect with his receivers after displaying his strong arm through the first 10 weeks. Senior Keenan Garber, a Kansas State commit, was limited to a 53-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter to end his season with 20 offensive scores.
“Tonight, Manhattan High made a lot of good plays and we didn’t,” Lisher said. “If that happens this time of year, bad things happen.”
photo by: Carter Gaskins
Lisher should know better than anyone, as he has been on the right side of lopsided affairs on a regular basis in his time manning the Firebirds.
Free State, which has won 20 of its last 22 contests, rolled over most of its opponents this year. The team began the season with three consecutive shutouts, all of which were by at least 41 points.
Prior to Friday’s loss, FSHS had outscored its opponents by a 460-115 margin over the first 10 games. The team appeared poised for a fourth consecutive postseason meeting with Derby and a chance to capture a state title before Manhattan abruptly ended that thought.
“It is tough to go out like this,” Webb said. “At the end of the day, you have to be thankful for what you are given. It is such a blessing to be a Firebird.”
MANHATTAN 41, FREE STATE 19
MHS | FS
First downs 14 | 2
Rushes-yards 58-375 | 24-31
Passing yards 56 | 34
Total offense 409 | 87
Fumbles-lost 2-1 | 1-0
Interceptions 1 | 2
Penalties-yards 6-27 | 5-50
Score by quarters
Manhattan 7 21 6 7 — 41
Free State 7 0 0 12 — 19
MHS: Kevontae McDonald 35-237, Dayne Aschenbrenner 16-87, Jaylynn Liggons 2-6, Javon Peoples 5-45
FS: Jax Dineen 11-28, Malik Berry 6-17, Keenan Garber 1-0, Tyler Bowden 2-1, LJ Mack 1-5
MHS: Aschenbrenner 3-4-34
FS: Berry 3-12-56
MHS: Liggons 1-15, Chace McIlvaine 1-8, McDonald 1-11
FS: Keenan Garber 2-58, Jax Dineen 1-(minus-2)
HOW THEY SCORED
5:09 — Kevontae McDonald 1 run. Gabe Pereyda kick good. (MHS 7, FS 0)
2:02 — Keenan Garber 53 pass from Malik Berry. Joey Wood kick good. (FS 7, MHS 7)
5:04 — McDonald 9 run. Pereyda kick good. (MHS 14, FS 7)
3:43 — McDonald 3 run. Pereyda kick good. (MHS 21, FS 7)
0:57 — McDonald 32 run. Pereyda kick good. (MHS 28, FS 7)
6:28 — McDonald 52 run. Pereyda kick no good. (MHS 34, FS 7)
11:17 — Jax Dineen 7 run. Wood kick no good. (MHS 34, FS 13)
4:45 — McDonald 4 run. Pereyda kick good. (MHS 41, FS 13)
1:49 — Dineen 10 fumble return. Conversion failed. (MHS 41, FS 19)