Free State High football coach Bob Lisher hasn’t had to worry about his players’ heads getting too big following their season-opening 37-0 victory at Olathe Northwest last week.
“The heat itself has brought them back down to earth,” Lisher said, referring to boiling practices on the FSHS football stadium turf this week. “I think they understand our schedule, that each week it’s gonna get tougher and tougher.”
Next up for the Firebirds — 7 tonight at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium in Overland Park — is Shawnee Mission West, which won, 20-14, at Lawrence High in Week 1.
As hot as it’s been, junior lineman Fred Wyatt said the momentum of a shutout win at least has the Firebirds hyped.
“It makes practice a lot easier,” Wyatt said.
Lisher knows tonight’s game won’t be easy, though, because the Vikings (1-0) have 6-foot-5, 290-pound junior Austin Chambers at right tackle and senior Brett Sterback at running back.
“They get off the football and move it,” the coach said of the SMW line, adding it can look immovable at times.
What makes Sterback effective, Lisher added, is his balance and ability to cut. He rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns against LHS, so Free State’s defense understands just how good the Vikings back can be.
“We’ve got to do a great job of squeezing gaps and shutting down gaps before he gets started,” Lisher said.
Senior linebacker and running back TJ Cobbs said West’s running attack has been the focus at practices this week, but Free State (1-0) also has learned a lot about itself.
“Our offense was really good,” Cobbs said of the Firebirds’ Week 1 victory. “We just need to keep pushing forward and get to the next level.”
Wyatt agreed: “People are expecting more from us now that they’ve seen what we’ve done.”
What Lisher saw on tape was execution in the rain and mud by Free State’s offense last week.
He admitted learning little about the passing game — senior quarterback Kyle McFarland completed one of his three attempts as FSHS protected the ball — but neither defense nor the running game (219 rushing yards between Cobbs, McFarland, Joe Dineen, Demarko Bobo and Stan Skwarlo) was an issue.
“I thought we played pretty physical,” Lisher said, “and that’s what we’re gonna have to do this week with Shawnee Mission West.”