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High School Sports

High School Sports

Regional rematch, not showdown sequel, awaits Free State football at sub-state

Free State’s Keith Loneker (20) helps bring down Shawnee Mission West’s Brett Sterbach during their game Friday, Sept. 07, 2012, in Overland Park.

Free State’s Keith Loneker (20) helps bring down Shawnee Mission West’s Brett Sterbach during their game Friday, Sept. 07, 2012, in Overland Park.

November 11, 2012

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If the ongoing narrative that is the 2012 high school football season were a Hollywood script, a City Showdown sequel in the Class 6A state semifinals would have been inevitable.

But Shawnee Mission West axed that surefire blockbuster by ending Lawrence High’s season Friday night in the quarterfinals.

Even Free State coach Bob Lisher, whose Firebirds handled Olathe East to reach the semis, admitted a rematch with the Lions — FSHS beat LHS in the regular-season finale to win a district title — could have been intriguing.

“It would’ve been exciting for the community to play Lawrence High, it would’ve been fun to play Lawrence High, but we’re happy we’re still playing and we’re playing Shawnee Mission West,” the coach said of the upcoming 7 p.m. Friday sub-state bout at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium.

Considering coach Dirk Wedd’s Lions were the last to face SMW (10-1), Lisher chuckled and said “maybe” when asked if he might discuss the Vikings with the LHS coach this week in preparation.

“We’ll use every resource we can get,” Lisher said.

LHS finished the season 8-3, with two losses coming to SMW and one to Free State (10-1). Obviously, Wedd would love to be preparing for another city showdown, but Vikings running back Brett Sterbach and Wildcat back Andre Maloney (278 combined rushing yards, two touchdowns Friday) kept that from happening.

The Lions coach said it was hard to believe the season is over.

“A lot of kids poured their heart and soul into something they felt like they had a shot at,” Wedd said, praising his players for reaching the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Having faced both Free State and SMW in the past three weeks, Lawrence’s coach knows plenty about the two teams vying to represent northeast Kansas in the state championship game.

“They’re both physical, and that’s what jumps out at you,” Wedd said. “They both can line up and take the air out of the offensive or defensive line, whichever side of the ball they’re on. It’ll be a big battle up front.

“I hope Free State wins. I think they will, because they’re so balanced. Free State will find a way to take the running game away from them, because when you’ve got (defensive ends Cody) Stanclift and (Fred) Wyatt, you can do a lot of things with those linebackers.”

The Firebirds started preparing for the Vikings on Saturday morning with video review from the previous night. Lisher had to excuse himself early in order to head west on Interstate 70 to watch his son, Michael Lisher, play on Washburn University’s offensive line in the Ichabods’ home game against Emporia State. If Free State can beat Shawnee Mission West — like it did, 28-14, in Week 2 — Lisher will bring his entire team back with him to Yager Stadium for the 6A state championship game on Nov. 24.

Free State last reached the title game in 2008, when it lost to Junction City, 19-14.

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