LT - Grahm Saunders, 6-4, 245, Sr. LG - Doug Bittinger, 6-2, 225, Sr. C - Michael Lisher, 6-2, 245, Jr. RG - Josh Hill, 5-10, 220, Sr. RT - Matt Frantz, 6-4, 250, Sr. TE - Taylor Stuart, 6-1, 205, Sr. WR - Camren Torneden, 5-7, 160, Jr. WR - Preston Randolph, 6-2, 185, Sr. WR - Matt Green, 5-10, 160, Sr. RB - Jack Caywood, 5-8, 165, Jr. QB - Cameron Schmidt, 6-2, 190, Sr.
NG - Bittinger, LE - Lisher, RE - Saunders, LB - Eric Franz, 5-11, 190, Sr. LB - Kirk Resseguie, 6-2, 180, Jr. LB - Specner Mann, 5-10, 170, Sr. LB - Mitch Werts, 5-10, 190, Sr. LB - Stuart RCB - Torneden, LCB - Schmidt, S - Randolph
P - Resseguie
K - Randolph
Preston Randolph was on the field that cold, November night two years ago when Free State High saw its perfect season and dreams of a state championship smashed after a 31-14 playoff loss to Shawnee Mission West.
Randolph, then a sophomore who played mostly special teams, learned a valuable lesson that night, one he finds himself thinking about even today.
"It just shows that you have to have more than talent to win and to reach your goals," Randolph said.
Tonight, when the Free State High senior wide receiver helps lead the Firebirds onto the field for the 2008 season opener against SM West, Randolph will be hoping that his tutelage in such areas delivers a victory.
This time around things are about as different as can be. It's the opener for both teams, there's nothing more than a good start on the line, and last year's 32-0 pasting in favor of the Firebirds is the freshest meeting between the two on most minds.
Still, despite all of the subplots and past memories associated with this match-up, FSHS coach Bob Lisher and his players view tonight's contest as a critical game.
"It's not a season-ending loss if you lose, it's not a season-maker if you win," Lisher said. "But it's very important that you get off to a good start in order to get some confidence so kids can see that what they've been doing in practice is paying off."
Free State shoots out of the gate with a host of new faces in the starting lineup. It also has enough familiar ones to make tonight's contest a comfortable endeavor.
For starters, the Firebirds return five offensive linemen who started or played significant minutes on last year's 7-3 team as well as all-league running back Chucky Hunter.
A sore back kept Hunter out of practice recently and will keep him on the sidelines for the start of tonight's game. But Lisher said the senior tailback would play plenty despite the injury. Starting in his place will be senior Jack Caywood, a program guy, whom Lisher has a world of respect for.
"Jack's my hero," Lisher said. "The kid works hard, he's here all summer doing exactly what we ask him to do, working hard, being a leader. He's earned the opportunity to get in there and we're looking forward to him performing."
Also receiving a notable start is senior quarterback Cameron Schmidt. Schmidt takes over for 2007 graduate Craig Rosenstengle.
As for the opponent, Lisher learned all he needed to know about SM West many years ago.
"Shawnee Mission West is well-coached, they will have a great plan, they will execute well and they will be strong and physical," Lisher said. "They always have been and they always will be. Our thing is to match that, and hopefully let some of our speed give us an advantage."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Haskell Stadium.