Preps notebook: Area football teams set for home openers
photo by: Kyle Babson
Free State senior Jax Dineen hasn’t stopped thinking about how the 2017 season ended.
Dineen sustained an ankle injury on a 67-yard run in the first quarter of the 6A quarterfinals. Dineen was forced to watch the entire second half from the sideline, as Free State suffered an overtime loss to Derby.
Friday will be the first time Dineen and the rest of his team plays a game at FSHS since that season-ending loss last year, as Free State (1-0) plays host to Olathe East (0-1) in the 2018 home opener.
About this feature
Preps Notebook is a new feature from Journal-World high school sports reporter Shane Jackson that will run several times a week and highlight results and other information about local teams. For more on this new coverage plan, please read Shane’s introduction here.
“That injury was sad and put a hard loss to the season,” Dineen said. “We just have to avenge it. We have to come back and be stronger and better. We have to do what we have to do to get to the state championship.”
But it was a long road back for Dineen in the offseason, as he recovered from the worst injury of his career.
Prior to this summer, Dineen’s only similar experience was overcoming a wrist injury in the sixth grade. Dineen wasn’t able to run until about five months after the surgery, so he focused on lifting and doing physical therapy for much of the offseason.
Still, Dineen wasn’t certain he’d return to his normal self for his final season with the Firebirds.
“I was definitely worried,” Dineen said. “My family kept supporting me and telling me to keep working. I’m pretty happy with how it is right now. I’m just ready to go.”
Dineen didn’t appear any different in the season opener, as Free State recorded a 41-0 victory over Olathe West.
After a 27-point first quarter, Dineen and the rest of the starters didn’t play much for the remainder of the night. Dineen accumulated 46 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, while consistently making stops on the defensive end.
It was a welcoming sign for the Firebirds, who leaned on Dineen last year when he tallied a school-record 23 touchdowns and racked up 1,510 rushing yards.
“I thought he played all over the place,” FSHS coach Bob Lisher said. “He played well on defense and chased down a lot of things. Offensively, he hit a few holes and made some things happen.”
Prediction: Free State over Olathe East
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.
LHS leans on senior leadership
It was expected that Steve Rampy, who is in his first year as head coach of Lawrence High, was going to make some changes at LHS this season.
One of the biggest changes had little to do with the playbook, however. Rampy decided to name captains for the Lawrence football team, as the team voted for six seniors before the start of the season.
“I’ve always had captains,” Rampy said. “I think it acts as a great liaison between the coaching staff and the team. It lets us have our finger on the pulse of what’s going on.”
photo by: Kevin Anderson
Seniors Sam Bart, Eric Galbreath, EJ Jewsome, Caleb Mondi, Garrett Romero and Bryce Tibke were all named captains by their teammates. It ended up being a difficult decision, though, as 15 seniors received votes.
“It was a reflection of the whole class,” Rampy said. “Ten of them got more than four votes. These six (players) were clearly above everyone else.”
The seniors, particularly the captains, were especially crucial after the Lions lost the season opener. LHS scored on the second offensive play of the game before ultimately stalling out in a 26-10 loss at Olathe South.
As a result, Rampy elected to change things up on the offensive line before the home opener against Shawnee Mission East at 7 p.m. Friday.
“We actually had a pretty good week,” Rampy said. “We simplified some things. We are excited about what we are doing. We think our offense has a chance to be better than it was a week ago.”
Prediction: SM East over Lawrence
LHS probable starters
QB — Garrett Romero, sr.; RB — Devin Neal, so.; WR — Bryson Cummins, sr.; WR — Chris Mumford, sr.; WR — Chris McGee, jr.; TE — Nick Ray, jr.; LT — Sam Bart, sr.; LG — MJ Issa, so.; C — Brayden Liakos, sr.; RG — EJ Jewsome, sr.; RT — Bryce Tibke, sr.; K/P — Ross Brungardt, sr.; KR — Devin Neal, so.
DE — Eric Galbreath, sr.; NG — EJ Jewsome, sr.; DE — Sam Bart, sr.; LB — Caleb Mondi, sr.; LB — Colby Stumma, sr.; CB — Tre’ Jackson, so.; CB — DeShon Lewis, jr.; SS — Marquis Jones, sr.; SS — Cole Mondi, so.; FS — Payton Cummins, sr.; FS — Kallun Chitama, so.; PR — Chris McGee, jr.
Baldwin vs. KC Piper
Baldwin used a pair of turnovers to take down Ottawa, 35-7, in the first game of the season. Zach Flowers rushed for two scores in the win for the Bulldogs. Baldwin is slated to face KC Piper (1-0) in the home opener. The Pirates, who claimed a 21-7 win in the first game of the season, are under the direction of first-year head coach Rick Pollard.
Prediction: KC Piper over Baldwin
Eudora vs. Bonner Springs
Senior quarterback Gavin Elston, who was playing for the first time since 2016, scored the only touchdown in a 21-7 loss to KC Piper. Senior back Carter Neis will look to build off a strong performance, as he ran for 103 yards on 20 carries to lead the Cardinals’ offensive attack. Bonner Springs (0-1) travels to Eudora after dropping a 41-0 decision to Paola.
Prediction: Eudora over Bonner Springs
Tonganoxie vs. Louisburg
Tonganoxie scored one late touchdown in a 42-6 loss at Basehor-Linwood. Senior quarterback Hayden Robbins linked up with senior receiver Korbin Riedel for the lone score. Tonganoxie will play host to Louisburg, which notched a 21-17 victory over Spring Hill.
Prediction: Louisburg over Tonganoxie
Perry-Lecompton vs. Holton
It was an impressive start to the 2018 season for Perry-Lecompton, which drubbed Royal Valley in a 68-0 road win. The Kaws racked up 363 rushing yards, including a 166-yard outing from quarterback Dalton Kellum. Holton (0-1) travels to Perry-Lecompton following a 14-12 defeat against Jefferson West.
Prediction: Perry-Lecompton over Holton
Last week: 6-0