FSHS coach Bob Lisher reflects on career ahead of season opener
photo by: Chris Duderstadt
Even amid his busy schedule, Free State football coach Bob Lisher allows himself to sit back and reflect on his career every now and then.
Just before the season opener, Lisher does just that when looking at his first opponent of the 2018 campaign, as FSHS squares off with Olathe West at 7 p.m. Friday at Olathe District Activity Center.
Olathe West is the newest program of the state, competing in its first varsity season in 2018. For Lisher, the matchup reminds him of when he took over a brand-new Free State football team in 1997.
“The older you get, the more you have time to reflect,” Lisher said. “The first year here, we had good numbers. But we tried to live on a lot of positives. We knew we weren’t going to win a lot of football games, we wanted to get better. We wanted to see ourselves get better on film.”
Lisher has since built the Firebirds into a perennial contender, but that wasn’t always the case.
In his first season, Lisher’s team posted a 1-8 record. The following year, however, Free State took down two-time defending state champ Olathe North in the first game of the season. Olathe North ultimately netted a state title later that year.
Free State has made 17 playoff appearances under Lisher, including a trip to the 6A state title game in 2008. The Firebirds have made six appearances in the semifinals and netted four Sunflower League titles. FSHS has reached the 6A quarterfinals nine times since 2006, including last season when the team fell to Derby to end a 10-1 year.
Lisher has compiled a 138-84 record in 21 seasons at Free State, but his favorite thing about coaching is forming a bond with his players.
“I like the back-and-forth between myself and the kids,” Lisher said. “They know I’m going to joke around with them, but when it is time to get serious and do things right, I’m also going to do that. You try to push all the buttons.”
Lisher remains in contact with a majority of his former players. Kansas senior linebacker Keith Loneker Jr., who graduated from FSHS in 2014, said that Lisher has the ability to relate to any team.
“Lisher is a great players’ coach,” Loneker said. “He does well with developing players. He does well with getting his assistant coaches all on the same page. That’s huge. I felt like we were very organized there, which is great.”
That quality has allowed Lisher to have success at any place throughout his career.
Prior to coming to Free State, Lisher served as the head football coach at Blue Valley North. He guided the team to its first-ever playoff appearance and district championship in 1996. Lisher was also an assistant coach at Lawrence High from 1985 through 1993, and had the opportunity to learn under former head coach Bill Freeman.
At LHS, Lisher was involved with seven state football championships and one state runner-up.
Lisher, who played at Lawrence in high school, always knew he’d end up in coaching. Still, Lisher couldn’t have possibly imagined having this much success when he entered the field, but that wasn’t his purpose.
“Competition is No. 2,” Lisher said. “No. 1 is relationships and being around these guys. These guys keep me young. I feel like I’m 18 until I look in the mirror. I love being around them and I learn a lot.”
FSHS probable starters
QB — Malik Berry, jr.
RB — Jax Dineen, sr.
WR — Cole Phillips
WR — Jaxon Webb, sr.
H — Keenan Garber, sr.
H — LJ Mack, sr.
TE — Jake Zenger, sr.
LT — Turner Corcoran, jr.
LG — Shane Skwarlo, sr.
C — Kyle Flachsbarth, jr.
RG — Zach Rasys, sr.
RT — Ryan Lutz, jr.
DT — Lovette Epelle, jr.
NT — Devon Buck, sr.
DT — Brandon Zeller, sr.
OLB — Matt Georgie, sr.
ILB — Jalen Nash, sr.
ILB — Jax Dineen, sr.
OLB — Joey Eddis, jr.
CB — Oliver Paranjothi, sr.
CB — Jaxon Malone, sr.
FS — Keenan Garber, sr.
SS — Malik Berry, jr.