Free State brings more beef on the lines, but it’s the football players with big games that camouflage small frames who could make the night pop loudest in Friday’s city showdown at Lawrence High.
Both 7-1 squads dot the football field with undersized athletes who make the foes they slam feel as if a ton of force has jarred them to the bone. Such players inspire freshman football coaches across the nation to share 10 times a day their favorite cliché: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” (Nearly every freshman football coach who uses that phrase at some level believes he invented it.)
We’ll never know the accuracy of heights and weights because most prep players inflate them, so view rosters with that in mind.
A look at key mighty mites from both sides of 15th Street/Bob Billings Parkway, the loosely enforced dividing line for the schools:
Cole Cummins: Listed at 5-foot-8 and 205 pounds, the senior must have had golf balls stuffed in every pocket when weighed, but the senior defensive lineman never comes up short effort-wise.
Hunter Haralson: He won a state championship wrestling at 126 pounds last February, and he plays linebacker and sometimes even nose tackle. The program lists him at 5-5, 145.
LHS coach Dirk Wedd called Haralson a “huge surprise,” which was probably the first time anybody ever called the senior huge.
Will Thompson: Listed at 5-9, 160, the senior is big enough for LHS quarterback Brad Strauss to find him consistently for 100-yard receiving games, and Wedd said Thompson’s one of his team’s hardest hitters.
Tye Hughes: A 5-11, 160-pound senior, Hughes has his fingerprints all over a football game. He averages nearly 20 yards per punt return and has a real knack for playing the ball as both a wide receiver and pass defender at outside linebacker.
Corban Schmidt: A 5-10, 165-pound senior middle linebacker, Schmidt leads Free State in tackles and is the unofficial team leader in bruising opponents. Look up the word “tough” in the dictionary, and you won’t find it. The word saw Schmidt coming its way, ran right out of the dictionary and has been hiding on the shelf behind the thesaurus ever since.
Stan Skwarlo: Middle-distance runner and outside linebacker. It’s not a combination often seen, but this 5-11, 170-pound junior masters both.
“It is a little unusual, but Stan’s a little bit unusual in the fact that he’s just a tough, tough kid,” Free State coach Bob Lisher said. “He’s a strong kid, he’s a physical kid, and he just doesn’t like to lose.”
A surplus of athletes from both sides share that aversion to losing, which is part of what will make this week pass so slowly in anticipation of Friday night.