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.
DE — Tyler Sampson, 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 — Khadre Lane, sr.
CB — Joel Spain, jr.
CB — Bryce Torneden, so.
FS — Joe Dineen, sr.
It would be difficult for Free State High senior Joe Dineen to forget what he calls an “embarrassing” football loss to Shawnee Mission West in last season’s Class 6A state semifinals.
The Vikings’ 48-21 victory resonated more than usual this week, as the Firebirds (3-0, ranked No. 2 in 6A by Kpreps.com) prepared for today’s 7 p.m. rematch with SMW (3-0, No. 1) at FSHS. The highly anticipated game will air live on KSMO TV.
The way Dineen, the Firebirds’ senior quarterback, recalls last year’s season-ending defeat, it really wasn’t much of a game at all, even though FSHS drove down the field for a touchdown on its first possession.
“After that, we kind of went dead,” said Dineen, who played running back in that game. “We couldn’t put any points up, and they kept scoring. It was an embarrassing way to go out.”
Adding to the humiliation, Dineen served as a protector on the punt team and twice had Kyle McFarland kicks hit him in the backside. Both miscues led to SMW touchdowns, and the Vikings, whom the Firebirds defeated in the regular season, went on to win the 2012 state championship the following week.
At least Dineen can chuckle about the butt-punts now: “It was just one of our dumb mistakes that cost us,” he said.
The Firebirds certainly didn’t need any extra motivation for tonight’s homecoming showdown, but Dineen said the memories of their downfall add to the anticipation. He and fellow offensive starters — left tackle Scott Frantz, left guard Coleman Houk, center Reid Buckingham, right guard Tyler Sampson, right tackle Shane Hofer, running back Stan Skwarlo, tight end Zach Bickling, and receivers Khadre Lane, Lucas Werner and Keith Loneker — plan to do everything in their power to right the wrongs of that unpleasant setback.
“You want to come back and play better,” the starting quarterback and free safety said. “You want to show that you can beat a team like that, which I think we can.”
Predictably, Free State coach Bob Lisher isn’t interested in the hype of the rematch or the top two teams in 6A playing each other.
“This game won’t make us or break us. We found that out last year,” the coach said, referring to the Firebirds’ regular-season win versus SMW.
Lisher is concerned about the Vikings’ stable of explosive athletes, led by senior 6-foot-2 receiver Andre Maloney, who like Dineen has orally committed to play football at Kansas. The Vikings lead the Sunflower League with 601 passing yards, and league-leader Maloney (261 yards) has caught three touchdown passes from senior quarterback AJ Verdini. Senior receiver Justin Hobbs has 168 yards and a TD, too.
While Lisher said both teams remain fairly similar to what they looked like last year, the coach has barely mentioned last season’s results — even as FSHS faces SMW for the third time in 15 games.
He brought it up just so he could remind them: “That has no bearing on this year.”
In order to defeat SMW and make their claim as 6A’s top team through four weeks, Dineen — who is second in the league in total offense with 728 yards (behind Olathe North quarterback Cole Murphy’s 811), and has 10 touchdowns — said the Firebirds must contain Maloney, limit the Vikings’ offensive punch and play to their full capability.
“If we put a full game together,” Dineen said, “I feel like no one can beat us.”