Free State High quarterback Camren Torneden and running back Chucky Hunter are always trying to one-up each other.
Whether it's in practice during drills, in the training room waiting to be taped or in the halls between classes, the two Firebirds always find a way to compete.
Friday night, that competition unfolded on the Haskell Stadium football field, and it was the Shawnee Mission East Lancers who had a front-row seat.
Behind 177 rushing yards from Hunter and 181 total yards from Torneden, the Firebirds improved to 3-2 with a 36-7 pasting of SME.
So which Firebird had the better night? That depends on whom you ask. After the game, as the thrill of a 29-point homecoming victory set in with each passing second, Torneden quietly cast a vote for his game. With about 11 minutes remaining in the fourth, as Hunter sat on the sideline done for the night, his friendly heckling of his quarterback seemed to suggest a vote for his evening.
Either way, it didn't matter. Both players were proud of what each was able to produce in leading the Firebirds to their second straight victory.
"We definitely depend on each other," said Hunter, who gained his 177 yards on 20 carries. "If he gets the ball, he can go. If I get the ball, I can go. It's definitely a nice little 1-2 punch."
Friday night, the killer combination accounted for five of the six Free State touchdowns including three on the ground from Hunter. Torneden added a rushing touchdown of his own and also hooked up with Preston Randolph for a six-yard touchdown pass.
The Firebirds only score that did not involved Hunter or Torneden came when senior Cameron Schmidt scored on a 10-yard run after Hunter and Torneden had been pulled from the game.
After the contest, Torneden took Hunter's assessment of the duo's effectiveness a step further.
"They have to stop one of us," Torneden said. "They can't stop both of us."
Don't the Lancers know it. The Free State offense torched SME for 408 yards of total offense on Friday and did so with the ease of a hot knife through butter.
The Firebirds scored on their first drive of each half, scored three touchdowns in each half, forced six fumbles, snagged two interceptions and blocked a SM East punt.
The offense's ability to punch it in after nearly every SME mistake only made things easier for the FSHS defense, which was slightly overlooked because of the team's offensive explosion.
That was just fine with senior linebacker Eric Franz, who recovered two fumbles, the second of which set up Free State's final touchdown.
"The defense is definitely always on its toes," Franz said. "But when the offense is out there rolling, it makes it a little easier on us."
For the second straight week, the Free State defense turned in a big-time performance. Until East drove the ball down the field for a touchdown in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, it looked like the Firebirds would come away with their second straight shutout. Instead, East's touchdown with 1:35 to play ended the Free State defense's stretch of 104:10 without allowing a point, dating back to the final quarter of a 34-27 loss to Shawnee Mission Northwest in Week 3.
"I think we're making improvements, but I think we can still make more improvements," FSHS coach Bob Lisher said. "But the kids are really working hard each week to get better. And, as coaches, that's all you can ask."
The only areas in which the Firebirds struggled on Friday were special teams and penalties. Free State was penalized 10 times for 98 yards, missed five extra points and failed on one two-point conversion attempt.
"The penalties are just a lack of focus," Lisher said. "Some of them are just hustle plays, but when you have that many penalties you just have to lock in and focus harder."
Regardless, the good in Friday's performance far outweighed the bad. And the sign of a good team, according to Lisher, was that his group still was not satisfied.
"We try to go higher every week," Hunter said. "We just tell each other to believe in each other and do your assigned jobs and good things will happen."