LT — Scott Frantz, jr.
LG — Coleman Houk, jr.
C — Reid Buckingham, sr.
RG — Tyler Sampson, sr.
RT — Josiah LeBrun, 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.
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.
At one point this season, members of one of the state’s top-ranked high school football teams might not have given much thought or credit to Leavenworth. The Pioneers lost three of their first four games, including a setback against one of the Sunflower League’s least successful teams this fall, Shawnee Mission Northwest.
However, with victories in two of its last three games, Leavenworth (3-4) has the full attention of Free State (6-1, ranked No. 2 in Class 6A by Kpreps.com). The teams will meet at 7 tonight at FSHS.
“They’ve probably improved more from the start of the season to now than any team in the league,” Firebirds senior Reid Buckingham said.
Not only are the Pioneers hot, but FSHS coach Bob Lisher said they have stout offensive and defensive lines, which allow the skilled players behind them to play aggressively.
Senior Leavenworth running back Jason Randall leads the Sunflower League with 995 rushing yards and averages 6.9 yards a carry.
Junior running back Isaiah Ross is eighth in the league in receiving yards, with 293.
“Offensively, when you have Ross and Randall behind that line,” Lisher said, “that’s dangerous.”
The duo combined for 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a 16-8 district victory over Lawrence last week, and Ross caught a pass for 36 yards.
Leavenworth’s blitzing attack defensively, Lisher added, will demand Free State’s offense to remain alert and assignment-sound in its blocking. Buckingham said he and fellow starting offensive linemen Scott Frantz, Coleman Houk, Tyler Sampson and Josiah LeBrun have heard about Leavenworth’s assertive front seven all week.
“We’ve really emphasized coming off the ball with flat backs, which we try to do every week,” the senior center said. “But this week it’s gonna be especially important to get push.”
Senior quarterback Joe Dineen — the league’s leader in total offense (1,564 yards), passing touchdowns (14) and total touchdowns (21) — said the Firebirds know a victory tonight would make them the only 2-0 team in their district.
Leavenworth and FSHS are 1-0; Lawrence and Wyandotte are 0-1.
“It’d definitely be important, but after we win that one, we want to go on and win the third one,” Dineen said of Free State’s approach. “(A win against Leavenworth) probably gets us into the playoffs, but we don’t want to think like that. We want to guarantee our spot.”
With just two games left in the regular season, Lisher feels better about Free State’s defense than its offense.
Linebackers Keith Loneker, Lucas Werner, Blake Winslow, Stan Skwarlo and Carson Bowen, free safety Dineen, cornerback Joel Spain and linemen Zach Bickling and LeBrun have proven to be the team’s top tacklers.
Lisher doesn’t see the same overall consistency in Free State’s offense, even though it exposed an overmatched Kansas City Wyandotte defense last week.
“This time of year is not the time to be struggling,” the coach said.