Free State 36, Shawnee Mission East 3
Free State topped Shawnee Mission to pull to 1-1 on the 2009 season.
The idea, heading into Thursday’s game against Shawnee Mission East, was for the Free State High football team to limit its turnovers and improve its pass defense.
The Firebirds were decidedly better in the first category (no turnovers Thursday) and somewhat better in the second (East finished 8-for-17 for 103 yards and no TDs through the air), and that proved to be more than enough to carry Free State to a 36-3 victory against the Lancers at SM North District Stadium.
Of course, the fact that the Firebirds (1-1) thoroughly dominated the ground game made both areas kind of irrelevant.
Behind the strong running of tailback Kirk Resseguie — 19 carries, 72 yards and two touchdowns — and the shifty feet of quarterback Camren Torneden — 16 carries, 167 yards and two TDs — Free State rode its offensive line to 242 yards rushing and nearly doubled up the Lancers’ total yardage output on the ground alone.
“That’s exactly what we want every night,” senior lineman Matt Ruder said.
While Resseguie pounded the heart of the SM East defense, Torneden dazzled on the outside. His touchdown runs of 43 and 66 yards each featured an array of nifty cutbacks and dazzling dance steps. He provided more of the same on a 68-yard punt-return touchdown that broke the game open early in the third quarter.
“Camren made some plays in the open field,” FSHS coach Bob Lisher said. “Of course, the rest of our team got him to the open field, but once he got there he turned in some really nice runs.”
When Torneden wasn’t torching the Lancers on the edge, Resseguie ran wild down the middle.
Torneden’s three long touchdown trots were bookended by short scoring bursts from Resseguie, who got the Firebirds on the board in the first quarter with a four-yard TD run and then closed the scoring in the fourth quarter with a similar five-yard blast.
“Kirk’s a good back, and with some more work he can become a great back,” Lisher said. “We just need to be more consistent throwing the football, and that will open up our running game even more.”
After a see-saw affair for most of the first quarter, Free State led 14-3 at halftime. After FSHS held the Lancers three-and-out on the opening drive of the second half, Torneden broke the game open with his punt-return touchdown. From there, the rest of the night was merely a formality, as the Firebirds continued to dominate the line of scrimmage and the Lancers continued to struggle offensively.
The Firebirds surrendered just 149 yards of total offense, 50 of those coming on one pass completion late in the game. East’s featured running back, Griff Gans, carried 13 times for nine yards, and, as a whole, the Lancers finished with 46 yards rushing on 27 carries.
“This was a good win for us,” Torneden said. “We didn’t get too down on ourselves after losing last week, and we came out tonight and did what we needed to do.”
The Firebirds only appeared to get stronger as the night progressed, delivering what was arguably their most impressive drive late in the game.
Leading, 29-3 with 19 seconds to play in the third, the Firebirds took possession at their own 37-yard line. Sixteen plays, 67 yards and nine minutes later, the Firebirds scored for the final time on a five-yard burst from Resseguie.
“You want your O-line to be able to do that, to run out the clock,” Lisher said. “That’s sort of their reward for taking care of business all game.”
As coaches often do, Lisher pointed to a couple of areas of his team’s performance that still could use improvement.
“We didn’t give the ball away, so we fixed that, but now we need to start taking it away,” said Lisher, whose team hasn’t forced a turnover in two weeks. “Pass-defense-wise, we have to start competing for the ball better, but, overall, I thought we were much improved tonight.”
So did Resseguie, who said playing well Thursday was crucial.
“This was a very important game,” he said. “It sets the mood for the rest of the season.”
Next up for the Firebirds is Friday’s highly anticipated home opener against SM North at Free State’s new, on-campus stadium.