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High School Sports

High School Sports

Firebirds, Lions not just rivals, but longtime friends

In this photo from 2007, The Lawrence Hurricanes sixth-grade football team poses after winning the NYSSO Kick-Off Classic in Basehor. Several members of 2013 Free State and Lawrence High football teams played for the Hurricanes, including, top row from left: LHS senior Alex Jones (74), FSHS seniors Khadre Lane (5) and Blake Winslow (28) and LHS senior Kyle Wittman (64). Middle row, from left: FSHS seniors Zach Bickling (39), Keith Loneker Jr. (21), Stan Skwarlo (24), and LHS seniors Kieran Severa (44) and Ryan Bellinger (48). Bottom row, from left: FSHS senior Joe Dineen (12) and LHS senior Tucker Sutter (40).

In this photo from 2007, The Lawrence Hurricanes sixth-grade football team poses after winning the NYSSO Kick-Off Classic in Basehor. Several members of 2013 Free State and Lawrence High football teams played for the Hurricanes, including, top row from left: LHS senior Alex Jones (74), FSHS seniors Khadre Lane (5) and Blake Winslow (28) and LHS senior Kyle Wittman (64). Middle row, from left: FSHS seniors Zach Bickling (39), Keith Loneker Jr. (21), Stan Skwarlo (24), and LHS seniors Kieran Severa (44) and Ryan Bellinger (48). Bottom row, from left: FSHS senior Joe Dineen (12) and LHS senior Tucker Sutter (40).

November 1, 2013

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Back in 2007, the football teams at Lawrence High and Free State shared a home field at Haskell Stadium.

On Friday nights, whether the Lions or Firebirds played, the sixth-grade Lawrence Hurricanes football team would gather there, usually in some open patch of grass near the field, playing their own game on a smaller scale.

“Even back then,” said Kieran Severa, an LHS senior on that Hurricanes team, “we’d get on sides and say, ‘Lawrence High guys versus Free State guys.’”

Those days are gone now, of course. Former Hurricanes Alex Jones, Kyle Wittman, Kieran Severa, Ryan Bellinger and Tucker Sutter are Lions seniors. Their one-time teammates Khadre Lane, Blake Winslow, Zach Bickling, Keith Loneker, Stan Skwarlo and Joe Dineen are senior Firebirds. The two sides will square off again tonight in the City Showdown — kickoff at 7 at FSHS.

It isn’t as if the former teammates are now mortal enemies by any means. That would be impossible with all the fun they had as Hurricanes, Skwarlo said.

“We all started out when we were in third grade and have just been brought up together, really,” the Firebirds running back and linebacker said. “It’s kind of sad it’s our final year together. It’s pretty amazing that we’ve been playing together for that long.”

Bellinger, a starting linebacker for LHS, said it will be unusual to see so many familiar faces wearing opposing helmets.

“I know it’s been on my mind and on the minds of all the other guys who played, parents of the players on the team,” he said of the Hurricanes rematch of sorts. “We were really successful together as a team when we were younger, growing up in the sport and learning it.”

The skills they picked up from coach Keith Loneker Sr. and his assistants have served them well, as all enter the rivalry game as starters.

Free State quarterback Joe Dineen, the Sunflower League’s leader in total yardage (1, 673) and touchdowns (22), knows the Firebirds (7-1 overall, 2-0 in District 1, ranked No. 2 in Class 6A by Kpreps.com) need a win to seal up a second straight district championship, as well as a possible No. 1 seed in the playoffs, but he admitted there is even more to the regular-season finale, because of the players’ Hurricanes ties.

“It makes it a little more competitive, too,” Dineen said. “You want to beat your friends.”

Even though Lawrence (3-5, 1-1) is the underdog, FSHS coach Bob Lisher said the Lions’ 81 points against K.C. Wyandotte show they are capable of anything.

“That means things are clicking for them,” Lisher said of Lawrence’s blowout win, “and our guys have to understand that, and I’m sure they do, especially with a game like this where the emotions are gonna be so high.”

When LHS has the ball, Dineen said FSHS must key in on its rival’s running backs, led by senior Drew Green (695 rushing yards, four touchdowns).

“Drew is hard to bring down,” Dineen said. “He doesn’t go down cheap.”

Defensively, Lions coach Dirk Wedd has much more to worry about than the Firebirds’ running game, because LHS surrendered 436 passing yards and five touchdowns to Wyandotte’s Dimonic McKinzy — like Dineen, an NCAA Division I football prospect

“That’s a big concern,” Wedd said. “Joe’s probably surrounded by better people than McKinzy was last week.”

Should the Lions find a way to defeat FSHS, they will have to do so by at least five points to get into the postseason (assuming Leavenworth beats Wyandotte, the most likely outcome of that game). That would create a three-way tie in the district, with Lawrence, Free State and Leavenworth all 2-1. In that scenario, the Lions and Pioneers would win a tiebreaker through total margin of victory in district games (KSHSAA tiebreaker rules place a ceiling/floor on margin of victory/defeat for any one game at 21 points), and Free State’s season would be over.

In 2011, favored FSHS needed a win to seal the district title, but lost, 20-0, to Lawrence, and the Lions became the only city representatives in the playoffs.

Today, the Firebirds will think back more on that game than their sixth-grade days as Hurricanes.

Said Skwarlo: “That was the most devastating loss I think I’ve ever been through. I remember that feeling and I do not want to feel it again.”


YouTube

2007 Lawrence Hurricanes introduction video


Lawrence probable starters

OFFENSE

LT — Alex Jones, sr.

LG — Matt Weiss, sr.

C — Kyle Wittman, sr.

RG — Jacob Nation, sr.

RT — Amani Bledsoe, so.

QB — Nyle Anderson, jr.

RB — Drew Green, sr.

TE — Adam Hayes, sr.

TE — Price Morgan, so.

WR — Kieran Severa, sr.

WR — Zay Boldridge, sr.

DEFENSE

DT — Kyle Wittman, sr.

NG — Matt Weiss, sr.

DT — Alex Jones, sr.

DE — Zay Boldridge, sr.

DE — Ryan Bellinger, sr.

ILB — Drew Green, sr.

ILB — Tanner Green, so.

CB — JD Woods, so.

CB — Nick Benton, sr.

SS — Tucker Sutter, sr.

FS — Kieran Severa, sr.

Free State probable starters

OFFENSE

LT — Scott Frantz, jr.

LG — Coleman Houk, jr.

C — Reid Buckingham, sr.

RG — Tyler Sampson, sr.

RT — Shane Hofer, jr.

QB — Joe Dineen, sr.

RB — Stan Skwarlo, sr.

TE — Zach Bickling, sr.

WR — Khadre Lane, sr.

WR — Lucas Werner, sr.

WR — Keith Loneker, sr.

DEFENSE

DE — Khadre Lane, sr.

NT — Josiah LeBrun, jr.

DE — Zach Bickling, sr.

OLB — Stan Skwarlo, sr.

MLB — Lucas Werner, sr.

ILB — Keith Loneker, sr.

LB — Blake Winslow, sr.

OLB — Carson Bowen, jr.

CB — Joel Spain, jr.

CB — Bryce Torneden, so.

FS — Joe Dineen, sr.

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