FSHS vs. Shawnee Mission East
When: 7 tonight
Where: SM North District Stadium
Records: FSHS 0-1, SM East 0-1
It has been well documented that starting the 2008 season with a 1-2 record did nothing to hinder the Free State High football team from advancing to the Class 6A state title game.
But just because the Firebirds realize that the first game does not make or break a season does not mean they’re taking any comfort in starting the 2009 season with a loss.
“That’s not the attitude at all,” senior wideout Aundre Allen said. “Nobody wants to start the season off like that, and we definitely don’t want to start the season 0-2.”
Free State will be looking to avoid that fate when it travels to Shawnee Mission North District Stadium today for a 7 p.m. kickoff against SM East.
The Lancers also opened the ’09 season with a loss last week, falling to Olathe Northwest, 29-7.
For the Firebirds, tonight’s game is as much about correcting their own mistakes as it is about focusing on what the Lancers will do against them. Last week, in a 29-20 loss to Olathe East, the Firebirds coughed up five turnovers and saw their defense fall victim to several big plays in the passing game. Disappointed but not discouraged, Free State’s leaders said eliminating those hiccups was Priority No. 1 this week in practice.
“Olathe East exposed our weaknesses,” Allen said. “And we had too many turnovers. The good thing is, we know that, and those are things we can fix.”
Priority No. 2 for the Firebirds this week was finding a way to combat a rash of injuries and illnesses that plagued the team throughout the week. Eight Firebirds missed practice time at one point this week, and tonight’s FSHS lineup will feature four new starters — two on offense and two on defense. Despite the new faces in new places, the Firebirds said their main focus would be on executing their game plan better on both sides.
“It’s two things really,” senior Spencer Chestnut said. “No. 1, we have to shut down the passing game and not allow as many big plays. No. 2, we need to get off the field on third down.”
In order to do so, the Firebirds will have to limit the Lancers’ two-quarterback attack of John Schrock and Robby Moriarty. Both spent significant time behind center last Friday, with little rhyme or reason to the rotation.
“Sometimes it was every other series, other times it was every other play,” FSHS coach Bob Lisher said. “They both threw about 15 passes and rotated the entire game.”
So how does a team that was exposed in the secondary a week ago prepare for two different quarterbacks just six days later? Easy, according to Chestnut.
“I think if we just prepare for their offense as a whole, we’ll be OK,” he said.
Although tonight’s game disrupts the routine of playing on Fridays, Lisher said he did not expect that to be a factor.
“That shouldn’t matter,” he said. “We’re kind of used to playing Thursday games by now. The bottom line is you have to play when they tell you to play. I’m kind of glad it’s a short week because that way we get to get out there one day earlier to work on correcting the mistakes we made last week.”