For five straight weeks, Shawnee Mission East High’s football team has left the field with the same result. The Lancers have had blowouts, shutouts and one squeaker, but each game ended with them unscathed.
When unbeaten SME visits Free State tonight — kickoff at 7 — the Firebirds want to be the first team to buck that trend.
Though the Lancers (5-0) have the Sunflower League’s leading receiver, Connor Rellihan (31 receptions, 527 yards, four touchdowns), and senior quarterback Jordan Darling, a Kansas University commitment, FSHS coach Bob Lisher knows East’s stingy defense has carried it to an undefeated mark. SME has given up just 10.4 points a game and has allowed an average of 258 yards.
“It’s crucial that we’re able to move the football against Shawnee Mission East. Not many people have,” Lisher said. “They’ve shut down pretty much everybody.”
The Lancers even blanked Olathe South, a team that beat FSHS, 38-35.
Free State senior quarterback Kyle McFarland, who has accounted for 1,251 yards of total offense, with seven passing touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns, hopes the Firebirds (4-1) can score like they have all season. FSHS leads the league, with 36.4 points a game.
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We went up against Olathe South, who was supposed to have a really good defense, and we put some points up against them,” McFarland said. “We could use some big plays, but four or five yards a play isn’t bad, either.”
When the Lancers have the ball, Lisher said Free State will have to find a way to stop the combination of Darling (70-for-110 passing, 997 yards, six touchdowns, one interception) and Rellihan.
The Lancers’ passing attack could be the first to test Free State, which has surrendered a league-best 44 passing yards a game and only given up 17 completions in 41 attempts.
SME is one of three unbeaten teams remaining in Class 6A, along with Topeka and Derby. Although Corban Schmidt said the final three weeks of the regular season will be more important, because of district play and postseason ramifications, being the first team to knock off SME would carry some weight.
“We want to prove that we’re a top-tier team inside Kansas,” Schmidt said, “so it’s a pretty important game.”