To hold you over until Friday night, when high school football season finally begins, here's a look at who will be seeing the most playing time for Lawrence High and Free State this week.
FREE STATE HIGH
With Friday night’s season opener at Olathe Northwest getting closer by the minute, Free State High football coach Bob Lisher is starting to feel better about his team’s depth chart.
Though Lisher expects some fluctuation to come as the Firebirds search for the right combination of players during the first few weeks, the FSHS staff has to be confident in its defense, which returns eight players who either started last season or played half the snaps in a game.
On the defensive line, Free State will start senior Cody Stanclift and junior Fred Wyatt as ends and senior Riley Buller at nose tackle.
The Firebirds have a long list of starting linebackers: juniors Stan Skwarlo, Kieth Loneker and Blake WInslow, and seniors Corban Schmidt and Tye Hughes.
Free State boasts a strong secondary, with seniors Kyle McFarland, first-team All-Sunflower League in 2011, and Demarko Bobo manning the corners and junior Joe Dineen at free safety.
Offensively, starting center junior Reid Buckingham will have guard Buller and tackle Wyatt to his left, with guard Stanclift and senior tackle Derick Davis to his right.
Behind Free State’s O-line, McFarland returns at quarterback and senior TJ Cobbs leads a committee of running backs.
Junior tight end Zach Bickling and senior receivers Chris Heller, Sam Hearnen, and Hughes enter the season as the team’s top passing targets.
Defensive backups for the Firebirds are junior ends Zack Bickling and Tyler Sampson, nose tackle Stanclift, linebackers Cobbs, sophomore Carson Bowen, junior Spencer MacDonald, seniors Miles Stevens and Demarko Bobo, senior cornerback Chris Heller and sophomore free safety Joel Spain.
Serving as second string on offense are linemen Sampson, MacDonald, sophomore Scott Frantz, quarterback Dineen, running backs Bobo and Skwarlo, junior tight end Saxon Mingus and receivers Loneker, Hearnen and Spain.
Starters and backups on special teams are less clear, but Bobo and McFarland are punters, Winslow, sophomore Tripp Wright and senior Antonio Schoneich can kick, and Hughes, Dineen and Bobo will return punts and kickoffs.
LT — Fred Wyatt, Scott Frantz
LG — Riley Buller, Tyler Sampson
C — Reid Buckingham, Spencer MacDonald
RG — Cody Stanclift, Tyler Sampson
RT — Derick Davis, Cody Stanclift
QB — Kyle McFarland, Joe Dineen
RB — TJ Cobbs, Demarko Bobo, Stan Skwarlo
TE — Zach Bickling, Saxon Mingus
WR — Tye Hughes, Kieth Loneker
WR — Chris Heller, Sam Hearnen
WR — Sam Hearnen, Joel Spain
DE — Cody Stanclift, Zack Bickling
NT — Riley Buller, Cody Stanclift
DE — Fred Wyatt, Tyler Sampson
OLB — Stan Skwarlo, Carson Bowen
LB — Kieth Loneker, TJ Cobbs
MLB — Corban Schmidt, Spencer MacDonald
LB — Blake Winslow, Miles Stevens
OLB — Tye Hughes, Demarko Bobo
CB — Kyle McFarland, Chris Heller
CB — Demarko Bobo, Chris Heller
FS — Joe Dineen, Joel Spain
P — Demarko Bobo, Kyle McFarland
K — Blake Winslow, Tripp Wright, Antonio Schoneich
PR/KR — Tye Hughes, Joe Dineen, Demarko Bobo
Playing so many sophomores two years ago is about to pay off for coach Dirk Wedd’s Lawrence High football team.
The Lions’ biggest strength on their depth chart entering Friday’s season opener against Shawnee Mission West is a core group of seniors with two seasons worth of varsity experience.
Leading that bunch is senior quarterback Brad Strauss, who threw for 1,555 yards and rushed for 754 more to gain All-Sunflower League first-team status in 2011. Protecting Strauss as starting linemen will be three seniors — left guard Jacob Warren, right guard Kharon Brown and right tackle Chris Gillespie— and juniors left tackle Alex Jones and center Kyle Wittman.
In the backfield, LHS has senior running back Tyrone Jenkins. Out wide, seniors Erick Mayo, Drake Hofer, Will Thompson and Josh Seybert lead the receiving corps.
Lawrence’s starting defensive line will be comprised of senior nose guard Cole Cummins, senior tackle Josh Seybert and Brown, an all-league first-teamer as a junior.
At linebacker, LHS will have seniors Jordan Brown and Asaph Jewsome and juniors Drew Green and Kieran Severa at its disposal.
In the secondary, free safety Strauss picked up first-team all-league defensive honors a year ago, and will be helped by corners Mayo and Thompson, as well as junior strong safety Tucker Sutter.
Members of the LHS secondary also will play a significant role on special teams, with Strauss punting and Severa kicking. Mayo and Strauss will return punts and Hofer will join Mayo for kickoff return duties.
Wedd wasn’t ready to declare backups at every position, but he shared the names of players most likely to see the field as second-stringers.
On offense, seniors Nick Long and Art Hall, and junior Matt Weiss can play multiple positions on the line. Jordan Brown will back up Jenkins at running back, while Green and Severa can sub in as receivers.
Defensively, Gillespie and Weiss lead the line’s reserves, while senior Hunter Haralson and juniors Ryan Bellinger and Isaiah Boldridge will fill in at linebacker. In the secondary, Hofer can come in at free safety and junior Brandon Maxey and sophomore Zakary McAlister will provide depth at the corners.
LT — Alex Jones, Nick Long
LG — Jacob Warren, Matt Weiss
C — Kyle Wittman, Art Hall
RG — Kharon Brown
RT — Chris Gillespie
QB — Brad Strauss
RB — Tyrone Jenkins, Jordan Brown
WR — Erick Mayo, Isaiah Boldridge
WR — Drake Hofer
WR — Will Thompson, Drew Green
WR — Josh Seybert, Kieran Severa
NG — Cole Cummins, Matt Weiss
DT — Kharon Brown, Chris Gillespie
DT — Josh Seybert
LB — Jordan Brown, Hunter Harrelson
LB — Drew Green
LB — Asaph Jewsome, Ryan Bellinger
LB — Kieran Severa, Isaiah Boldridge
CB — Erick Mayo, Brandon Maxey
CB — Will Thompson, Zakary McAlister
SS — Tucker Sutter
FS — Brad Strauss, Drake Hofer
P — Brad Strauss
K — Kieran Severa
KR — Erick Mayo, Drake Hofer
PR — Erick Mayo, Brad Strauss