FSHS vs. Olathe East
When: 7 tonight
Where: Free State
Records: FSHS is 7-2; O-East is 6-3
Olathe East has improved. So has Free State.
Obviously, these aren’t the same football teams that clashed way back on the opening week of the high school season.
Are the Hawks, who won that game, 29-20, still the better team? Or will the additional experience be more favorable for the Firebirds?
“For a lot of our guys, it was their first game,” said Free State senior center Michael Lisher, looking back. “But they didn’t have that many returning starters, either, so we’ll see who’s made the biggest strides on Friday night.”
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. at the Firebirds’ field for the first-round Class 6A state playoffs contest. Sunflower Broadband channel 6 will carry a delayed telecast at 10:30 p.m.
To a man, Free State’s players had been hoping for a rematch with the Hawks because they felt they beat themselves on that early September night at Olathe’s College Boulevard Activities Center.
“I wish we could take away those interceptions,” senior running back Kirk Resseguie said. “I think we might have won.”
Four interceptions — three thrown by quarterback Camren Torneden — and a lost fumble were too much for the Firebirds to overcome.
“That definitely won’t be the same this week,” Torneden said. “Turnovers are something you try not to do, but they happened.”
Since having those three passes filched, Torneden has had only three aerials stolen in the last eight games. One of those was last Friday in a 35-14 victory over Olathe Northwest.
The Firebirds (7-2) knocked off the Ravens, incidentally, despite turning the ball over four times on the same CBAC field where they had coughed it up five times against the Hawks.
“We hadn’t turned the ball over that much since we were in that stadium,” coach Bob Lisher said, “so we hope it’s a stadium thing.”
Torneden remains the catalyst of the Firebirds’ offense. The reigning All-Sunflower League quarterback owns remarkably balanced run-pass numbers.
The 5-foot-7, 165-pound senior has thrown for 779 yards and rushed for 778 yards. He has rushed for 16 touchdowns — two on punt returns — and thrown six TD passes.
Resseguie has also run for 16 touchdowns while accumulating 1,038 yards on the ground.
At the same time, Free State boasts a triumvirate of talented pass-catchers in Keene Niemack, Connor Stremel and Aundre Allen. Niemack has 20 catches for 305 yards, Stremel 16 for 275 and Allen 13 for 246.
O-East (6-3) also boasts a versatile offense that showcases quarterback Carter McEntee and tailback Hayden Groves. McEntee passed for 112 yards, and Groves ran for 113 more in the first meeting.
Notably, too, Hawks’ kicker Dylan Ramsey attempted field goals of 41, 28 and 25 yards that night and made them all.
“They have a lot of weapons,” coach Lisher said, “and defensively they’re very aggressive.”
Tonight’s winner probably will get another crack at Olathe North, one of only two unbeaten Class 6A schools in Kansas (Manhattan is the other), next Friday. The Eagles will entertain Shawnee Mission East (4-5) tonight.
Both Free State and O-East bowed to O-North during the regular season. The Eagles plunked the Firebirds, 38-20, and toppled the Hawks, 28-14.
Olathe East’s other losses were to SM West (17-14) and Blue Valley Northwest (27-21), two other teams also in the playoffs.