Preps notebook: Lions return to football practice ahead of big game against Bishop Carroll
photo by: Shane Jackson
Senior linebacker Cole Mondi had the honor of leading the breakdown of a socially-distanced huddle following Lawrence High’s first varsity football practice in two weeks.
“It felt great,” Mondi said. “Everybody’s energy today was surprisingly unbelievable. Us not being together, and all the zoom calls, it kind of just pays off being out here.”
The breakdown chant “Together we rise” revolves around the idea of teamwork being the driving force for whether or not the Lions (3-0, No. 1 in Class 6A) can accomplish their goals. And that concept will certainly be put to the test this weekend.
Lawrence, which had been in quarantine from Sept. 19 until Thursday, will now have just two days to prepare for Bishop Carroll (3-1, No. 4 in Class 5A) this week. The highly-anticipated matchup is slated to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday at LHS.
“They are a good football team,” senior linebacker Karson Green said. “It’s going to be tough. That’s what the coaches said, they wanted to challenge us. Coach (Steve) Rampy always says that the team that plays the best is going to be the one that walks out with the ‘W’ so we have to do that.”
But the Lions are certainly at a disadvantage going in, having not played a game since their 42-14 win over Olathe West on Sept. 18. The day after that win is when the team received an email from the Lawrence school district, which instructed 69 players and two coaches to quarantine after an LHS player tested positive for COVID-19.
It meant that the only contact between players and the coaching staff over the next 11 days was via zoom. They went over film from their first three games of the season, while spending the extra time taking a closer look at Bishop Carroll.
Players were responsible for staying in shape by doing their own conditioning at home.
“Those 10 days felt like three years,” senior linebacker Blake Schimmel said. “We all stayed in shape on our own. It was hard, being in the middle of our football season, to have that one-week pause with nothing to do. This year has been so weird that we are just used to it by now.”
photo by: Shane Jackson
Fortunately for the Lions, it appeared that they were able to hit the ground running in their first practice back.
Lawrence had a good session at the end of practice, where the first-team offense went against the first-team defense with an uptempo pace. Senior quarterback Jackson Dooley directed an offense that looked like it hadn’t missed a beat since scoring 151 total points through the first three games.
Senior Graham Hough hit a point-after-attempt to close out the practice, a make that kept the Lawrence players from having to do a conditioning session to end practice. Rampy admitted that he didn’t want his team to do too much running in an attempt to save their legs, but was thankful that his senior class made the first practice back go smoothly.
“Everything we have done through this whole thing is because we have 28 great seniors,” Rampy said. “They know what we are doing and know what our expectations are. They are intelligent kids and great athletes. All of that makes this easier.”
LHS will have more of a mental rehearsal Friday morning before going back to a shelves practice (shoulder pads and helmet) in the afternoon. The Lions will then have a final walkthrough Saturday morning before an early afternoon kickoff.
“We stayed disciplined through it all and handled our business,” Mondi said. “Now we are ready to roll.”
FSHS football figuring out its identity
It hasn’t been the start to the season that Free State’s football program had hoped for, opening the year 0-3 for the first time in five years. While the wins haven’t been there, the Firebirds have started to learn more about their identity after the first month of the season.
After an offseason that was interrupted by a pandemic, Free State lost its Week 2 opponent due to precautionary reasons. But the Firebirds, who are slated to travel to Mill Valley at 7 p.m. Friday, are now playing for the third week in a row. And it has helped the team grow over the last couple weeks.
“We are just now figuring out who we are as a team,” FSHS head coach Kevin Stewart said. “We just didn’t have that opportunity this summer. Having a lot of new guys, we didn’t really know what we had.”
Perhaps the biggest thing that Stewart has recently learned is that his offensive line is still as strong as ever. Gone is former standout tackle Turner Corcoran, who is now playing at Nebraska. But the Firebirds still have plenty of talent along the offensive line.
Junior Tai Newhouse, who is a force on the defensive line, has received some reps on the other side of the trenches. Senior Luke Wheeler had held down the left guard position, while junior Tyler Gourley has controlled things as the center. Seniors Ian Shire (tackle) and Alec Wilson (guard) have been impressive on the right side of the line.
“We have a pretty good offensive line,” Stewart said. “Maybe we just need to lean on those guys a little bit and grind it out.”
As a team, the Firebirds have really faced a gauntlet to start the season with losses to
De Soto, Olathe North and Lee’s Summit North (Mo.) in September. It won’t get any easier, however, with a trip to the Class 5A defending champs up next.
The schedule was made more difficult for Free State when certain opponents originally elected to postpone the fall sports season. But the schedule is still somewhat in flux, as FSHS won’t be able to travel to Bishop Carroll on Oct. 9 due to travel restrictions imposed by the school district.
Stewart said that Bishop Carroll could still end up traveling to Free State next week, but the game remains up in the air at the moment. Through it all, though, FSHS has continued to grow as a team even if the record doesn’t indicate that.
“They are still working really hard,” Stewart said. “The kinds of kids that we have, they are not going to quit. They are not going to give up on the season. We got kids that are real football players.”
Firebirds win another gymnastics meet
Free State’s gymnastics squad claimed its second win in as many meets to start the 2020 campaign.
The Firebirds finished first by scoring 103.450 total points at Tuesday’s meet at Indian Creek Recreation Center. Emporia, Lawrence, Newton, Shawnee Mission North and Shawnee Mission Northwest all competed in the meet along with FSHS.
Talia Gay led the way for Free State once again, earning top spot in the all-around rankings with 36.900 points scored as an individual. She finished first in bars, beam and floor to go along with a runner-up finish in vault.
Kenzie Vaughn also placed fourth in all-around for the Firebirds, thanks to a balanced effort across all of her events. She was third in bars and beam, while notching fourth in vault. Chaney Finkeldei finished fourth in floor, while Tori Crockett took fourth in bars.
LHS, meanwhile, placed fourth in the event with a team score of 92.950 points. Paris Spotted Tail was second in all-around, which included a win in the vault competition. She finished as a runner-up in bars and floor, as well. Beth Brandt claimed fourth in vault and sixth in floor on the day.
Two FSHS golfers finish inside Top-10
A pair of Free State girls golfers ended up inside the top-10 as individuals during the second leg of the Sunflower League competition. It helped the Firebirds finish fourth as a team Wednesday afternoon at the Eagle Bend golf course.
Junior Addyson Meadows, who has emerged as Free State’s top golfer this year, placed sixth with a score of 83. Free State senior Claire Covert joined her in the top-10, shooting an 86 for the day.
Sophomore Claire Berquist wasn’t far behind her teammates, as she carded an 89 to finish in a tie for 16th. Sophomore Emma Stammeyer claimed 25th as an individual by posting a round of 95.
Lawrence High was led by junior Rylie Hayden, who shot 101 to end up in a tie for 30th place. The Lions placed ninth out of 13 teams in the event. Shawnee Mission East won the competition, while Olathe East finished as a runner-up.
Second leg of Sunflower League
Wednesday at Eagle Bend
Team scores: 1. SM East 316; 2. Olathe East 348; 3. Mill Valley 351; 4. Free State 353; 5. Olathe West 353; 6. Olathe NW 380; 7. SM Northwest 407; 8. SM South 409; 9. Lawrence 414; 10. Olathe North 418; 11. Olathe South 426; 12. Olathe South 426; 13. SM West 482; 13. SM North 539.
FSHS results: 6. Addyson Meadows, 83; T-10. Claire Covert, 86; T-16. Claire Berquist, 89; 25. Emma Stammeyer, 95; 39. Marrah Spriggs, 107.
LHS results: T-30. Rylie Hayden, 101; 32. Peyton Fowler, 102; T-34. Emma Parsons, 103; 41. Emme Dye, 108; Jetta Gonzales, 144.
Local soccer teams in action
After not having a match last week, Bishop Seabury’s boys soccer team had a busy start to the week by playing back-to-back games.
The Seahawks dominated the first half in their eventual 3-2 home win over Eudora on Monday. Beck Oldridge scored twice and Harrison Hartzler notched one goal to help BSA jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first half. Bishop Seabury then earned a 3-0 win over Atchison on Tuesday. Brayden Shumaker, Oldridge and Hartzler all scored a goal in the second match.
Free State, meanwhile, has appeared to hit its stride after a 3-2 home win over Gardner-Edgerton on Tuesday. Sarj Zeedan scored all three goals in his team’s latest victory. The Firebirds (5-1-1) have now won three matches in a row, which includes a 3-2 win over Olathe East last Thursday.
Lawrence High’s boys soccer team dropped to 4-5 on the year following a 2-1 loss to Shawnee Mission West on Tuesday. Mason Anderson was responsible for Lawrene’s lone goal. The Lions have lost back-to-back matches, falling below the .500 mark.
FSHS volleyball gets revenge against LHS
It is no question that Free State’s volleyball team is playing better than it did to start the season. That much was clear following Tuesday’s results in a triangular at Mill Valley.
FSHS earned a three-set win over Lawrence High after dropping the first set by a 25-21 margin. The Firebirds rallied back to win the next two sets (25-20, 25-23) against the Lions. For comparison, Lawrence got the best of Free State with a two-set sweep in the season opener on Sept. 1.
Both teams ultimately lost to Mill Valley on the night. Free State only won the first set in a three-set loss (25-15, 25-21, 25-13) to Mill Valley, while Lawrence dropped a two-set decision (25-14, 25-17) to suffer its fourth defeat in a row. The Lions fell to 7-12 on the year.
The Firebirds, who defeated the top-ranked team in Class 6A last week, now have an 11-8 overall record.