The three star receivers have moved on and so has the productive running back. The quarterback who packed so many thrills into game after game has used up his eligibility.
No, we’re not talking about the Kansas University football team, rather about Free State High’s.
Camren Torneden (1,276 passing yards, 935 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns and 11 touchdown passes) has moved onto Nebraska-Omaha, where he teams with his most accomplished high school blocker, Michael Lisher.
Kirk Resseguie (1,099 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns) is playing linebacker for Missouri Western State. Fellow graduates Aundre Allen, Keene Niemack and Connor Stremel combined for more than 1,000 receiving yards.
The Firebirds had an abundance of experience, speed and talent in 2009 and finished 8-3. This season, more than just the offensive skill players will need game seasoning to move closer to their ceilings.
“We’ll be very inexperienced on the offensive and defensive lines,” said 14th-year Free State coach Bob Lisher. “It all starts up front, so we’re a little apprehensive. We hope it all comes together and we think it will, but we have to develop some starters and some depth and get some game experience for the new guys.”
Senior Dylan Perry, a talented runner, replaces Torneden at quarterback and classmate Preston Schenck will play running back with help from Matt Cole and Henry Viano.
All the starters from the defensive line and most of the second-team players graduated, but Lisher had high praise for returning offensive line starter Justin McCandless.
“He’s a big kid, he’s smart and he’s good, very good,” said Lisher, who added he had high expectations for blockers Cale Nieder and Zach Saunders.
As usual, Free State has speed at wide receiver in this, the sixth season Lisher has used the spread offense. Lisher called move-in Desmond Wyatt, “one of the fastest, if not the fastest player we have.” Baseball star Tim Lewis and Tucker Fritzel, “tough guy, good hands,” Lisher said, will catch passes when Perry gets enough protection to throw and can hit his target.
Lisher’s spread offense, rich with misdirection plays that confuse the defense, always opens up plenty of running room for the quarterback and running back. Still, there is no way to speed up the maturation that takes place during games.
“We’re going to be really young, but we have players who I think are going to step up,” McCandless said. “It’s going to take time to get experience, but I think when they do get it, we’re going to be good. Last year, I was new. I was nervous, but once you get that first Friday night lights and some experience, everything starts coming together, people start meshing, and it’s just good from there on.”
The Firebirds begin their second season at the on-campus football stadium at home against Olathe South at 7 p.m. on Sept. 3.
With Torneden gone, neighbors won’t hear as many loud outbursts.
“He was a freak athlete,” McCandless said. “He could make something out of nothing, but we’ve got a lot of guys who can step up.”
The September steps will be shakier than those in November.