SM N-West at Free State
When: 7 tonight
Where: Free State High
No football team in the Sunflower League has a tougher three-game gantlet on its schedule than Free State High.
The rugged stretch began last week against Shawnee Mission West, will continue today against SM Northwest and will end next Friday against Olathe North.
“That’s three very quality opponents who like to play tough, physical games,” Firebirds’ coach Bob Lisher said.
Kickoff against the Cougars will be at 7 p.m. at Free State’s campus stadium.
“Right after we beat Shawnee Mission North,” senior guard Spencer Chestnut said, “the intensity ramped up because coach Lisher told us it would be our toughest stretch of the year.”
How good are those three teams?
SM West was unbeaten until the Firebirds hung on for a 22-15 triumph last Saturday afternoon in Overland Park. Meanwhile, SM Northwest has just one defeat and that was to O-North, the lone remaining unbeaten in the league.
In other words, Free State has three straight games against three legitimate playoffs contenders.
Tonight’s game looms as a showcase for two of the Sunflower League’s best quarterbacks.
Free State’s Camren Torneden is the reigning All-Sunflower League QB and SM Northwest’s Matt Nowak has played like an all-league candidate so far.
Earlier this season against Lawrence High, Nowak compiled 275 yards of total offense in the Cougars’ 35-7 victory. Nowak, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior, passed for 168 yards and ran for 107 more.
“He’s fast,” the Firebirds’ Chestnut said of Nowak. “He’s definitely a fast kid.”
Nowak isn’t the whole show, however. Running back John Hauk, a bruising 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior, scored three touchdowns in that easy victory over the Lions.
“They play fast and they play hard,” Lisher said of the Cougars, “and their quarterback is a weapon.”
Free State (3-1) also has a potent 1-2 punch in Torneden and running back Kirk Resseguie. Torneden has compiled 832 yards of offense — 482 passing, 350 rushing — in the first four games while Resseguie has run for a team-high 394 yards and eight TDs.
Throw out their season-opening 41-12 loss to Olathe North, and the Cougars have allowed only three TDs in their other three games, so they’re not top-heavy on offense.
“They can obviously shut people down,” Free State tight end Louis Bateman said of Northwest’s defense. “They’ll be as tough as we’ve seen.”