Before the season, Free State High football coach Bob Lisher figured quarterback Kyle McFarland might thrive running the option because of his athletic ability.
The last two weeks, McFarland’s strengths have been on display as the Firebirds — who travel to face Shawnee Mission East at 7 tonight at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium — have racked up the rushing yards.
“He’s capable of throwing, capable of running and, thank goodness, he’s capable of making the correct read and getting it in the right person’s hands,” Lisher said.
Free State followed a 445-yard rushing performance against Shawnee Mission Northwest with a 299-yard rushing effort last week against Shawnee Mission North, partially thanks to an effective option game.
“It’s a great offense when it works and when it’s executed correctly,” Lisher said, “and our guys are doing a pretty good job of it.”
In each of the last two contests, McFarland and running back Shawn Knighton eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark. Against SM North last Friday, McFarland had 10 carries for 146 yards, while Knighton had 20 rushes for 113 yards.
“Their defense really wasn’t going to be able to cover both of us,” McFarland said. “(Shawn) was making big plays to open the hole up for me.”
Quietly, McFarland has moved into second place in the Sunflower League in total offense, despite the fact he split the quarterback duties with Joe Dineen in the first two games.
The junior’s 1,239 combined yards (713 passing, 526 rushing) place him behind only Lawrence High quarterback Brad Strauss.
“Our line is just doing really good up front,” McFarland said, “making key blocks and doing a really good job.”
Lisher expects Shawnee Mission East (2-3) to be healthier than it was a week ago in a 31-0 loss to LHS.
The Lancers were missing a few players because of injuries, including receiver Elliot Faerber. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior has already committed to Div. I Illinois and is the fourth-ranked player in the state of Kansas, according to Rivals.com.
The responsibility of covering him — if he plays — will go to either McFarland or Knighton, depending on where the receiver lines up.
“We’ll probably just try to physical him out,” McFarland said. “Hit him off the line, and hopefully they don’t get the ball to him.”
SM East coach Chip Sherman has indicated that he expects most of his injured players to return by next week when district play starts.
“I’d imagine he might have them all back by (tonight),” Lisher said. “Who knows? We’ll see. ... I’m sure some of them will be back tonight, if not all of them.”
The Firebirds (4-1) will be shorthanded themselves, as two-way starter Cody Stanclift is out due to a leg injury, while defensive lineman Sterling Ozark will not play because of sickness.
Junior Riley Buller will step in as a starter on the offensive and defensive lines, while senior Jimmy Fernandez will take over Stanclift’s spot at defensive end.