Free State High football coach Bob Lisher admits this year’s team isn’t as big or deep as some teams he’s had in the past.
That makes tonight’s season-opener against Olathe South a challenging matchup.
“They return a lot of their linemen,” Lisher said. “And they were big last year.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at ODAC in Olathe.
O-South’s average starting offensive lineman measures 6-foot-2, 230 pounds. To compare, Free State’s average starting D-lineman is 5-11, 212 pounds.
With only two returning starters on defense — cornerback Shawn Knighton and defensive end Cody Stanclift — Lisher said one key will be making sure his guys keep their focus.
“When you play a lot of inexperienced guys on defense, you can be hungry, you can hit, you can get to the ball — all those fun things,” Lisher said. “But you can also get yourself out of position a lot by being inexperienced.”
The Firebirds were able to utilize their speed around the edges last season against the Falcons in a 42-23 win at FSHS.
“They’re very big and physical, but we came out and we didn’t cower up,” Knighton said. “We came out to play.”
Most likely, the Firebirds will have to try to keep up offensively with a Falcons team that has aspirations of a state title run this season after going 7-4 a year ago.
At quarterback, FSHS junior Kyle McFarland will start, but sophomore Joe Dineen also will receive snaps. Lisher said both had improved in the summer through camps, weight training and workouts.
“We’ll play them both, just ride it for a while, and see which one does the best job over the long run,” Lisher said.
Knighton will start at tailback after playing receiver a year ago, while junior T.J. Cobbs, junior Demarko Bobo and sophomore Stan Skwarlo also will sub in for carries.
Along with Knighton, senior left guard Jimmy Fernandez and senior right tackle Caylor Norris are the only returning starters on offense.
“Our line is coming together,” Knighton said. “We weren’t very sure about it at the beginning of the year, but it’s starting to look good. Everybody else is starting to do their part.”
Free State’s defense also will have to worry about junior quarterback Frankie Seurer, Jr., whose father played quarterback for Kansas University in the early 1980s.
Seurer came off the bench in the fourth quarter to complete three of four passes for 71 yards and a touchdown against Free State last year.
“We anticipate them throwing it a little bit if necessary, but as big as physical as they should be ... we just don’t know,” Lisher said. “We’ll have to try to adjust on the run defensively.”