After spending Friday through Sunday in Maryville, Mo., for Northwest Missouri State University’s football camp, Free State High coach Bob Lisher returned to Lawrence feeling optimistic.
He saw the Firebirds in full pads and helmets for the first time this summer, and after they practiced against other high school programs from Iowa and Missouri, Lisher and his coaching staff noticed a simple trend.
“When we did our assignments correctly,” Lisher said, “we did some good things. When we didn’t, we struggled.”
Even though FSHS has a team full of veterans, their coach didn’t get too disappointed about the few trials they endured early in their offseason schedule. The missteps came when the Firebirds lined up in formations they didn’t use last fall.
“Some of our new offensive sets and schemes we messed up on a little bit,” Lisher said, “but we had time to practice, and we got better as the weekend went along.”
According to the coach, the Firebirds have lots of things to work on, with the new plays on offense being their primary concern. In some of the sets, players are asked to move interchangeably as running backs and receivers, and because that is a new concept to many, some confusion has been unavoidable.
“It’ll take awhile,” Lisher predicted, “for that to jell.”
On the other hand, when Free State ran basic offensive plays, the team had far more success. In those instances, Lisher said they weren’t over-thinking — they just reacted to the opposing defense and made plays.
Ultimately, the camp provided good tests for FSHS, and the coaches were able to see new players perform at positions that need to be filled. Lisher said the Firebirds looked their best on defense, not giving up many touchdowns or first downs. The coaches had particular interest in the play of the corner backs, and Lisher said junior Andrew Keating, sophomore Bryce Torneden and senior Khadre Lane played fairly well.
Lisher reported the defensive front did a “great job,” and FSHS even developed some depth, with senior Lucas Werner and junior Tye Carter mixing in well at linebacker with veterans such as seniors Blake Winslow and Keith Loneker.
The Firebirds never had to worry about their three senior offensive linemen, Fred Wyatt, Reid Buckingham and Tyler Sampson, but after seeing some young players step in with the veterans, Lisher expects a productive offensive line this fall. He said once they get used to the intensity level of playing varsity football, juniors Scott Frantz and Shane Hofer will help the O-line.
The rest of the summer, the Firebirds plan to hit the weight room and conditioning drills hard and make themselves more familiar with their new offensive assignments.
“We’ve got a pretty good idea now,” Lisher said, “of what we need to work on the most.”