After a wacky win over Leavenworth last week, overcoming 80 yards in penalties and five fumbles, Free State High’s football team faces a new challenge tonight against Shawnee Mission South — the Sunflower League’s top rusher.
SM South junior running back Gabe Guild has racked up 344 rushing yards on 43 carries in the team’s first two games, good for eight yards per carry, and three touchdowns.
“He gets downhill quick. He’s got some speed, makes one cut and attacks the line of scrimmage,” Free State coach Bob Lisher said. “They can line up in the I-formation and run the ball at you or they can line up in the spread and run some sweep stuff and some counters off of it. So we have to be pretty sound defensively in what we’re doing against them.”
Tonight’s game is set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at SM District Stadium’s South location in Overland Park.
Added senior Calloway Schmidt, who had two interceptions last week: “We just need to make sure that our dogs stay outside, keep contained, don’t get locked up. As long as we don’t let speed start it can’t hurt us.”
Lisher is not only looking to cut down on his team’s penalties, but he’s also hoping to increase the Firebirds’ physicality.
“I know we haven’t been out-hit, but I know we can be a more physical as far as moving the line of scrimmage offensively an defensively,” Lisher said.
On offense the Firebirds (1-1) will hit SMS with the same dual-quarterback threat of junior Kyle McFarland and sophomore Joe Dineen they used in their first two games. While both have shown glimpses of readiness to take over the starting spot for good, Lisher is in no hurry to fix a system that is not broken.
“They’re both making mistakes but they’re both doing well also so we’re still evaluating. Eventually we’d like to settle on one but as long as they’re both producing it’s not that pressing of a deal right now,” said Lisher.
“It’s not bad,” said McFarland, who completed 10 of 20 passes against Leavenworth for 197 yards, a touchdown and an interception. “We both have different styles, so they can’t get used to one of us.”
They’ll go up against SM South’s 3-4 defense, a formation the team has yet to see.
Free State is looking for its first road win of the season after falling in the season opener at Olathe South. Lisher says his team is not necessarily young, but they are inexperienced — something he could tell in week one and in last week’s lightning delay.
“As they feel more comfortable on the field Friday nights under the lights their mistakes will start to go away as they gain that experience,” Lisher said.
As a senior, Schmidt tries not to let the opposing fans shake his focus.
“We just have to not let the crowd get to us. Even though we’re on their field we have to play our game.”