Archive for Friday, September 26, 1997

SINCLAIR COLUMN:MANY FIREBIRDS DOING DOUBLE DUTY

September 26, 1997

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When Free State basketball coach Jack Schreiner watches a Firebird football game, he sees it in a little different light than the average fan.

You see, many of FSHS coach Bob Lisher's football players could be doing double duty, and playing for Schreiner this winter.

"First of all, I think it's great that these kids are playing because we need them to do as many activities as they can. I don't think it will hurt them one bit," Schreiner said. "But, when I watch this game, I think I do it a little differently than you do: I look to make sure everyone gets up after the play and is OK."

Of Lisher's troops, tight end Dijon Dillon, quarterback Matt Heider, linebacker Nathaniel Denby, tailbacks Doug Jackson and Matt Maigaard and wide receivers Paul Dillon, Chris Ostrander and Vincent Walker all played hoops at some level for Schreiner at Lawrence High last year.

Throw Josh Lyles -- a 6-foot-7, 300-pound senior lineman -- into the mix and the Firebirds basketball squad could prove to be quite a formidable foe.

Dillon, however, is the lone Lions varsity starter who will suit up for Free State, averaging 5.5 points a game, the fourth best total on the team.

He, Denby and Jackson joined the football team "just before or just after our first game," Lisher said. The rest of the players have been working out with the squad since the first day of practice.

"I think it's a real positive thing. I think they saw all of their friends out there and decided this would be something they wanted to do," Schreiner said. "They came in and asked me about it. I think they were afraid I'd be mad, but I think it's a real positive thing. It's great for school spirit and everything ... so long as no one gets hurt."

Heider, Lisher's starting quarterback, and Jackson both played junior varsity for LHS. Maigaard and Paul Dillon -- both football starters -- as well as Denby, Ostrander and Walker all played on the sophomore team.

While Lyles is a relatively unknown in the Lawrence community, the senior is no stranger to Lawrence football.

"I played Little League and one year of junior high (at West Junior High in Lawrence) and then sat around until my junior year," said the lineman, who played football last season with Alma-Wabaunsee High School. "My friend, Vincent, persuaded me to go out (for football) because he was going out."

Hopefully Walker will use his powers of persuasion again once basketball season rolls around.

Both Lyles and Walker -- who have known each other "since we were little, little, little kids," according to Lyles -- have made their presence felt with the football Firebirds.

Walker, a 6-foot-1, 160-pound junior wide receiver, has five catches for 99 yards in losses to Olathe South and Olathe East.

Lyles makes an impact every time he steps onto the field -- and not just because he blocks out the sun.

"I was very impressed, obviously, just from his size alone," Lisher said of his first impressions of the man-mountain. "He is making a great deal of progress and he's getting better. He's got feet and he's got some quickness. If he sticks with it, keeps in the weight room and does a good job, he's got a chance to go on and become a big-time player."

Lisher is pleased with all of his football/basketball players, including the three most recent additions to the team.

"I was aware of them," the coach said. "Dijon I knew of from his days at South Junior High. Coach (David) Lawrence over there at South is very high on this football player. I knew the name because of his dad playing for KU in the early 70s.

"Doug Jackson and Nathaniel Denby I wasn't familiar with as far as being football players, but I knew they were very good athletes."

Now let's just hope these players don't have to wait until December for their first win as Firebirds.

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