Football players for our city’s public high schools have tasted 10 victories six weeks into the season. Not even frequent state champion Lawrence High before the school split into two schools could have figured out a way to do that.
In this, the 16th football season since the split, both Lawrence and Free State look as if they have legitimate shots to contend for a 6A state title.
“If you put these two teams together, that would make for a pretty potent program, but a lot of the guys playing wouldn’t be playing,” Free State coach Bob Lisher said.
Lawrence High coach Dirk Wedd likes the way the split has worked out.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “That was a long time ago. It gives a lot of kids opportunities to play, and obviously the city has accepted both high schools, and I think that’s neat.”
LHS and Free State boast 5-1 records heading into district play, which starts Friday with home games for both schools. LHS faces Leavenworth (3-3), and Free State plays K.C. Wyandotte (5-1). The next week, LHS plays at Wyandotte, Free State at Leavenworth. The city showdown is at LHS on Oct. 26. The two teams among those four with the best records in that three-week span advance to the playoffs.
A look at the quarterback position best illustrates the extent of this year’s football depth in Lawrence. In many years, junior Joe Dineen would rank as the best quarterback in town. Yet, if the high schools were combined, he would be third on the depth chart, behind seniors Brad Strauss of LHS and Free State teammate Kyle McFarland.
Dineen, by the way, had two interceptions and returned a fumble for a touchdown in Friday’s 28-0 victory against Shawnee Mission East, who has Kansas University commitment Jordan Darling at quarterback.
It was a huge night for Free State coordinator Brett Oberzan, whose defense stopped the run, forced passing situations and applied steady pressure on Darling. Defensive linemen Riley Buller, Fred Wyatt and Cody Stanclift had big nights.
LHS doesn’t have the size Free State does but has no shortage of skill. In leading the Lions to a 32-15 victory Friday against Shawnee Mission South, Strauss had a season’s worth of highlights and as always credited receivers Drake Hofer, Erick Mayo and Will Thompson, running back Jordan Brown and two-way lineman Kharon Brown, an indefatigable force.
“I don’t think in the 16 years Free State has been in existence both teams have been this strong in the same year,” Wedd said.
The closest: In 2002, LHS finished 8-3, Free State 7-3. They were a combined 9-3 at this point.
“It’s just nice to see football in Lawrence have two really good teams,” said Lisher, who played and coached at LHS. “It’s fun to get back to that point. It’s been a long process.”