Head Coach: Bob Lisher returns for his 13th season with the Firebirds.
2008 Finish: 9-3, Lost to Junction City, 19-14, in 6A state title game.
Key Returners: Camren Torneden, sr., QB; Michael Lisher, sr., OL/DL; Keene Niemack, sr., DB/WR, Matt Ruder, sr., OL/DL; Kirk Resseguie, sr., RB; Aundre Allen, sr., WR, Chandler Schmidt, sr., WR/LB; A.J. Simons, sr., OL; Spencer Chestnut, sr., OL/DL; Bo Schneider, sr., WR; Connor Stremel, sr., WR/CB; Headyn Cole, sr., TE/LB; Louis Bateman, sr., TE.
Impact Newcomers: Justin McCandless, jr., OL; Preston Schenck, jr., S; Matt Cole, jr., LB; Henry Vaeono, jr., LB.
If You Go To One Game Make It This One: Friday, Oct. 9 vs. Olathe North. Although the Firebirds’ schedule is stacked with big games, this one could be the biggest. En route to the state title game, Free State defeated O-North in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs last season and the Eagles certainly will have revenge on their mind when they come to Lawrence on Oct. 9.
This Team Most Resembles: The 2009 Oklahoma Sooners. Like OU’s luxury of having Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford back, FSHS quarterback Camren Torneden returns to lead the FSHS offense. While that provides this team with stability, the determining factor in how good this team can be will be the play of weapons around him and the Firebirds’ defense.
Coach Speak: “Every year’s a new challenge and each has different challenges,” Lisher said. “Going to the (2008) state championship game was pretty special. We’ve got a bunch of kids who experienced that. They’ve seen it, they’ve tasted it and they want more of it.”
Head Coach: Nancy Hopkins once again will be on the bench to guide the Firebirds into her 13th season at the helm.
2008 Finish: 24-16, Lost to Lawrence High in first round of sub-state.
Key Returners: Chantay Caron, sr.; Alex Mollohan, sr.
Impact Newcomers: Meghan Holmes, jr.; Marissa Thibodo, sr.
If You Go To One Match Make It This One: Senior Night, Oct. 13. “We’re planning on doing a “Pink Night” that night to raise money for breast cancer research,” Hopkins said.
This Team Most Resembles: The Kansas Jayhawks of the 1988 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. This team is a classic underdog that has some talent to back it up.
Coach Speak: “When asked if we are going to be any good this year, my response is that I always think we’re going to be good. With all that we had graduate from last year, I think people are not expecting too much from us, but I think they might be pleasantly surprised.”
Head Coach: Jason Pendleton returns for his 11th season at FSHS, 16th overall as a head coach.
2008 Finish: 7-6-5, Lost to Washburn Rural in Regional championship game.
Key Returners: Daniel Chance, sr.; first-team all state in 2008; Diego Gonzalez, jr.; 12 goals in 2008; Tony Libeer, jr.; Sam Passig, sr.; Kendall Gooden, sr.; Will Libeer, jr.; Preston Newsome, jr.; Jake Frydman, sr.; Jackson McClure, sr., goalkeeper; and Tyler Smith, sr.
Impact Newcomers: Elliott Johnson, jr.
If You Go To One Game Make It This One: Sept. 3 at Bonner Springs High because, as Pendleton says, “It’s the only game on our schedule at this point. Why would we look past our first game?”
This Team Most Resembles: “Depression era boxer James J. Braddock, who overcame individual deficiencies and fought with a passion and determination that allowed him to defeat superior opponents,” Pendleton said. “If we can recognize that our individual actions are connected to the success of the team and refuse to give up on each other we will be successful.”
Coach Speak: “I expect this team to compete with everything they have each time out,” Pendleton said. “If there is a second left on the clock and heartbeats left in our bodies I anticipate us exhibiting a fighting spirit that refuses to acknowledge defeat and battles till the end.”
Head Coach: FSHS boys and girls coach, Steve Heffernan, returns to the trails for his 11th year with the program.
2008 Finish: The FSHS girls finished third at state, marking the team’s highest finish in school history.
Key Returners: Girls — Morgan Flannigan, sr.; Libby Wiebe, sr.; Hayley Francis, jr.; Lynn Robinson, Soph.; Amy Meyers, jr.; Hailey Donley, soph. Boys — Logan Sloan, jr., Kain Anderson, soph.; Harrison Scheib, sr.; Chris O’Brien, sr.
Impact Newcomers: Boys — Peter Leslie, sr.
If You Go To One Meet Make It This One: Regionals, Oct. 24, because that’s where we’ll find out if this team gets a shot at running for a state title.
This Team Most Resembles: The 2009 Kansas University football team. Free State returns a veteran group of talented athletes this season and, after steady improvement throughout the past several years, will be looking to finally break down the door that stands in the way of a state title.
Coach Speak: “On the girls side we can be as strong as we were a year ago,” Heffernan said. “By the end of the season we can contend for titles at league, regionals and state. On the boys side, we have some great experience at our No. 1 through 4 spots and (need someone) to fill that fifth spot. If we can stay healthy, this can be one of our stronger boys team in some time.”
Head Coach: Kathy Johnson, who fills the odd role of coaching both the Free State and Lawrence High gymnastics teams, returns to FSHS for her 13th season.
2008 Finish: The Firebirds tied a school record for points (105.125) and finished third at the Class 6A state meet. The bronze-medal performance also matched the program’s highest finish in school history.
Key Returners: Drue Davis, sr.; Kelcy Bowers, jr.; Lexi Gonzales, jr.; Aly Frydman, jr.; Jackie Soelter, soph.
Impact Newcomers: Brooke Leslie, fr.
If You Go To One Meet Make It This One: The Oct. 5 All-Around Invitational at LHS. This features both LHS and Free State but also some of the best talent from around the area.
This Team Most Resembles: The New York Yankees of just about every year. The Firebirds are loaded with big-time talent this season and expectations are high.
Coach Speak: “We have a lot of returning gymnasts with a solid base to build on,” Johnson said. “Our goal is for the girls to perform at their best and by season’s end, qualify for state and place at the top in postseason competition.”
Head Coach: Craig Hershiser returns for his sixth season on the links.
2008 Finish: Two qualified for the Class 6A state tournament a season ago and one, senior Grace Brahler, returns to the lineup this season.
Key Returners: Two-time state qualifier Grace Brahler, sr.; Alyson Butler, jr.; Bethany Cobbs, jr.
Impact Newcomers: Caitleen Desetti, sr.; Emily Johnson, sr.; Emma Groene, sr.; Lindsey Morris, jr.; Samantha O’Brien, soph.; Madison Brumley, soph.
If You Go To One Meet Make It This One: “We encourage people to attend our home event, the Firebird Invitational (Sept. 14) at Lawrence Country Club,” Hershiser said. “It is the first leg of the official Sunflower League tournament and features all Sunflower League schools.”
This Team Most Resembles: The 2004 Boston Red Sox, who, like the Free State golfers have done this season, adopted several catchy slogans for their dramatic run to their first World Series title since 1918. Included among the Red Sox unforgettable phrases were: “Cowboy Up” and “Why Not Us?”
Coach Speak: “We are looking forward to a fun season,” Hershiser said. “All the girls will play in numerous tournaments and all are committed to improving their games. Our girls have adopted two mottos: “Be a beast today” and “Tomorrow has promise.” Those cover the present and the future; we can’t go wrong.”
Head Coach: John Richey returns for his second season with the girls team. Richey also is the boys coach at FSHS.
2008 Finish: ‘08 graduate Lauren Thames was the only Firebird to qualify for state last season, although a few other girls were close at regionals.
Key Returners: MacKenzie Lown, sr.; Kelly Phipps, jr.; Ashleigh Stagg, sr.; Liz Walters, sr.; Jordan Koch, sr.; Katie Mosher, jr.
Impact Newcomers: Guin Toalson, soph.; Caitlyn Tilden, soph.; Jackie Garcia, soph.; McKenzie Liebl, sr.
If You Go To One Match Make It This One: Regionals on Oct. 9, when the top four finishers (singles and doubles) will earn a trip to state.
This Team Most Resembles: The Chicago Bulls of the 1990s. With a clear-cut best player in Lown, the rest of the team is fighting hard to become this team’s version of Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr and Dennis Rodman.
Coach Speak: “A good goal for us is to get as many girls as possible to the state tournament,” Richey said. “I feel pretty confident that our No. 1 singles player, MacKenzie Lown, can make it, but to do well as a team it takes more than one player so we’re hoping that some other girls will step up as the season progresses.”