Free State remains undefeated with 51-0 victory

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Free State Keenan Garber (1) makes a move on Smith-Cotton Kyler Simoncic (10) late in the second quarter on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018 at FSHS. The Firebirds improved to 5-0 with a 51-0 victory over the Tigers.

It doesn’t matter who the opponent is for Free State’s football team.

Despite facing an unfamiliar foe, the Firebirds executed in all facets for the fifth time in as many weeks of the 2018 season. Free State was in complete control for the duration of its 51-0 win over Sedalia Smith-Cotton (Mo.) at FSHS Friday.

It marked the first-ever meeting between the two programs.

“Smith-Cotton is a pretty good football team,” FSHS head coach Bob Lisher said. “Our guys came out and were resilient. They packed the box on us tonight, we were forced to throw the ball a little bit.”

But the performance was a perfect response after scuffling in last week’s win — at least by Free State’s standards.

The Firebirds, who are ranked No. 2 in Class 6A by Kpreps, had four touchdowns called back via penalties in their 35-14 victory over Shawnee Mission West. They needed four scores in the second half after a sluggish start through the first two quarters.

As a result, FSHS (5-0) demonstrated its dominance from the opening kickoff this week. On the third play from scrimmage, senior running back Jax Dineen delivered a 51-yard touchdown run following a perfect pitch on an option from junior quarterback Malik Berry.

“Coach Lisher stressed intensity and focus this week in practice,” Berry said. “Coming out here and doing what we did feels pretty good.”

Berry then granted the Firebirds a 14-0 advantage over the Tigers on the next possession with a 16-yard touchdown run. Berry added a 20-yard score early in the second quarter, which came off a scramble on fourth down.

Free State’s defense stalled any momentum by Smith-Cotton as well. Senior defensive back Oliver Paranjothi notched an interception, while Dineen recovered a fumble. Senior defensive lineman Brandon Zeller recorded a 45-yard interception return, though it was ultimately called back due to a penalty.

The Firebirds used some trickery to close out the first half, claiming a 28-0 advantage at the intermission. On a receiver screen pass, senior receiver Jaxson Webb connected with senior receiver LJ Mack for a 51-yard touchdown.

“We executed that play better than we ever have in practice,” Lisher said. “That was the way it was supposed to look. Jaxson threw a nice pass and LJ got open.”

Free State continued to pour it on in the second half.

On the first offensive play, Berry delivered a strike to senior receiver Keenan Garber for a 40-yard touchdown pass. Garber has scored 10 times on 18 total touches through the first five games of the season.

Junior Lovette Epelle then helped forced a safety by Smith-Cotton on the ensuing possession. Dineen answered with a 52-yard touchdown run on the team’s second offensive play of the second half, which gave FSHS a 44-0 lead.

Lisher employed his reserves for the remainder of the contest. Sophomore Tyler Bowden added a 39-yard touchdown run in the final period. Free State finished with 243 rushing yards on 23 carries. It marked the team’s third consecutive game with at least 200 rushing yards.

The strong showing on the ground was made possible by the offensive line, which includes junior Turner Corcoran along with senior Shane Skwarlo, senior Kyle Flachsbarth, senior Zach Rasys and junior Ryan Lutz. Dineen paced the rushing attack with 114 yards on six attempts, while Berry added 69 yards on 10 rushes.

“The first couple of games I just had to get a feel for it,” Berry said. “Now I’m starting to see the holes and juke defenders. It’s a big element to my game.”

Free State plays host to Olathe South at 7 p.m. Friday.



First downs 11 | 7

Rushes-yards 23-243 | 38-77

Passing yards 135 | 6

Total offense 378 | 83

Fumbles-lost 0-0 | 2-1

Interceptions 0 | 1

Penalties-yards 5-50 | 9-80

Score by quarters

Free State 14 14 16 7 — 51

Smith-Cotton 0 0 0 0 — 0

Individual statistics


SC: Brandon Neale 11-42, Cameron Finley 12-30, Brett Grupe 2-(minus 1), Kyler Simoncic 4-(minus 1), Garrett Walkington 3-(minus-10), Davin Scribner 1-1, Chase McMullin 5-16

FS: Jax Dineen 6-114, Malik Berry 10-69, Tyler Bowden 2-44, Ja’Brandian Douglas 3-10, Jaxson Webb 1-5, LJ Mack 1-1.


SC: Brett Grupe 1-5-5, Kyler Simoncic 1-1-1

FS: Malik Berry 5-8-76, Jaxson Webb 1-3-59


SC: Kyler Simoncic 1-5, Drake Peterson 1-1

FS: Keenan Garber 3-66, Jax Dineen 1-2, LJ mack 1-59, Jaxson Webb 1-8


First quarter

10:58 — Jax Dineen 51 run. Connor Gellender kick good. (FS 7, SC 0)

6:45 — Malik Berry 16 run. Gellender kick good. (FS 14, SC 0)

Second quarter

8:48 — Berry 20 run. Gellender kick good. (FS 21, SC 0)

44.0 — LJ Mack 51 pass from Jaxson Webb. Gellender kick good. (FS 28, SC 0)

Third quarter

9:45 — Keenan Garber 40 pass from Berry. Gellender kick good. (FS 35, SC 0)

7:33 — Safety by Smith-Cotton. (FS 37, SC 0)

7:18 — 52 run by Dineen. Gellender kick good. (FS 44, SC 0)

Fourth quarter

8:41 — Tyler Bowden 39 run. Gellender kick good. (FS 51, SC 0)


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