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High School Sports

High School Sports

Favored Firebirds wary of underdog Lawrence

Free State quarterback Camren Torneden, right, breaks free of Shawnee Mission Northwest defenders Will Greenhaw (23) and Drew Goodger (83) in the first quarter. In the back is Free State tackle Matt Ruder. The Firebirds pounded the Cougars, 49-0, on Friday at FSHS.

Free State quarterback Camren Torneden, right, breaks free of Shawnee Mission Northwest defenders Will Greenhaw (23) and Drew Goodger (83) in the first quarter. In the back is Free State tackle Matt Ruder. The Firebirds pounded the Cougars, 49-0, on Friday at FSHS.

October 23, 2009

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Lawrence high schools to grapple on gridiron

The Firebirds and Lions will meet Friday to see who continues their run into the post-season. The Lions enter the contest without a regular-season victory. Enlarge video

Matt Cole says he and Jamal Brown talk most Friday nights after football games.

“Me and Jamal are pretty good friends,” said Cole, a junior linebacker for Free State High. “We have been since junior high.”

At Southwest Junior High, Cole and Brown were teammates, but they’ll be on opposite sides of the field tonight because Brown is a Lawrence High lineman.

Kickoff for the 13th renewal of the city rivalry will be at 7 p.m. at Free State’s stadium. Sunflower Broadband 6 will carry a delayed telecast at 10:30 p.m.

Although the Firebirds (5-2) are favored to knock off the winless Lions, Cole stressed that his friendship with Brown will be put aside tonight.

“You don’t want friends to suffer through a terrible season,” Cole said, “but this isn’t a friends thing. It’s a team thing.”

Justin McCandless, a Free State junior lineman who also played with Brown and a few other current Lions at SWJH, echoed Cole’s sentiments.

“They’re still friends,” McCandless said, “but when we go out there we won’t feel bad for them.”

At the same time, Free State coach Bob Lisher feels for Lions’ coach Dirk Wedd, a longtime friend, but he also knows the cyclical nature of coaching.

“If you haven’t had a tough season,” Lisher said, “you haven’t coached long enough. It happens to everybody.”

For whatever reason or reasons, the bulk of teenage football talent in Lawrence has resided north of 15th Street or Bob Billings Parkway for the last couple of years, and that inexplicable trend may continue for the next year or so.

Lisher has more size, more depth and more speed than Wedd. While the Lions have virtually no passing attack and a running game that has struggled lately, the Firebirds’ offense is both potent and balanced.

Tailback Kirk Resseguie has rushed for 757 yards and 13 touchdowns, while quarterback Camren Torneden has run for 543 yards and 12 TDs, two on long punt returns.

Meanwhile, Torneden has thrown for 784 yards and four TDs. The senior slinger has a trio of standout receivers in Keene Niemack (16 catches for 222 yards), Connor Stremel (14 for 242) and Aundre Allen (11 for 221).

Lawrence’s primary weapon is senior running back Tyrae Jenkins who has rushed for 664 yards, and a respectable 4.5 yards per carry.

Jenkins has had two big outings — 171 yards against Shawnee Mission North and 151 yards against Olathe South — so the Firebirds know Jenkins is capable.

“I know we can’t let down,” Cole said. “We have to bring our A-game. You never know what they’ll throw at you.”

Free State will be looking for an unprecedented fourth straight victory in the series that is deadlocked at six victories apiece.

Free State will conclude the regular season next week with its district finale at Olathe Northwest. Lawrence will end at home Friday against Leavenworth.

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