Shorthanded Firebirds suffer 35-9 loss to Olathe North
photo by: Mike Yoder
It would have been a difficult matchup even under the best of circumstances, but a shorthanded Free State football team ultimately didn’t have enough firepower in a 35-9 loss to Olathe North Friday night at FSHS, falling to 0-2 in the first three weeks of the season.
The Firebirds were still missing more than 30 players and one coach, all of whom were finishing up quarantine following a positive COVID-19 test in the first week of the season. It led to Free State not playing last week at all, as Lincoln College Prep (Mo.) backed out of the matchup as a precaution.
“We are a young team, we have some injuries and things like that,” FSHS head coach Kevin Stewart said. “There are no excuses, that’s what we told the guys. We just have to keep getting better.”
Free State ended up being without multiple starters and lacked depth at most positions during its first Sunflower League clash of the season against last year’s Class 6A runner-up. And that inexperience showed early on, with FSHS having a costly error on the team’s first offensive possession.
Junior quarterback Jet Dineen hit junior receiver Jake Patchen on a quick pass deep in Firebirds territory. Patchen was hit immediately by a Olathe North defender, fumbling the ball, and the visitors then scooped it up. It was a bang-bang play that could have been called an incomplete pass, but the sequence proved costly.
“Maybe it was a fumble, but it sure looked like a dropped pass to me,” Stewart said. “That gave them the ball right back for an early score. Other than that, the defense basically shut them out the whole first half.”
Olathe North (2-0, No. 4 in Class 6A) scored two plays later on a 9-yard touchdown run by junior running back Jacob Parrish. The Eagles grabbed a 7-0 lead at the 8:01 mark thanks to that stretch, and they led for the rest of the night.
The Eagles were without Arland Bruce IV, a three-star recruit committed to Iowa, who transferred to a high school in Iowa after the Olathe school district originally postponed the fall sports seasons. He still hasn’t played in a game in Iowa because of eligibility issues, which led to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes tweeting at The Iowa High School Athletic Association on Thursday asking leaders there to let Bruce play.
Even without Bruce, though, Olathe North’s offense had a familiar style. The Eagles relied heavily on the ground game, with a three-headed attack of Parrish, Aquantez Love and Noah Palmer.
In fact, Olathe North’s only pass attempt of the first half was a 39-yard connection between Palmer and Parrish. One play later, Palmer punched it in on a 2-yard keeper to give the visitors a 14-3 advantage.
“They have a good team,” Stewart said. “They have great coaches and they have a good defense. We knew they were going to be a good football team. I thought our guys competed really hard.”
Still, Free State’s defense made the Eagles work for every yard they earned on Friday. Seniors Jacobee Williams and Ryley Wheat delivered two of the bigger hits in the first half, both of which were behind the line of scrimmage.
The FSHS defensive line of Tai Newhouse, Luke Woodbury and Preston Tran won its fair share of snaps in what was a heavyweight battle with Olathe North’s offensive line in the trenches. Linebackers Gage Callaghan, Mason Georgie and Anthony Lewis were all involved in several stops on short runs by the Eagles.
“I was proud of the defense,” Stewart said. “They played hard tonight.”
On offense, Dineen made many of the key plays as the FSHS signal caller. Most of Dineen’s yardage came via his legs, as he kept finding a way to make something out of nothing on most of his runs. Junior Elijah Harshaw also filled in admirably for starting running back Dash Cleveland, who wasn’t available after a strong showing in the season opener.
Dineen and Harshaw even linked up once through the air, picking up 32 yards on a connection that was one of the night’s better plays by the offense. A few plays later, Dineen scored on a 2-yard quarterback keeper.
Olathe North had an impressive response on the ensuing drive, which featured a pair of fourth-down conversions before Love scored on a 10-yard touchdown run at the 2:56 mark in the third period. It ended up serving as the decisive blow, despite FSHS showing plenty of fight until the end.
“We got some scrappy guys,” Stewart said. “I love that attitude.”
Free State will travel to Lee’s Summit North (Mo.) in Week 4.
FSHS | ON
First downs 13 | 18
Rushes-yards 35-135 | 44-323
Passing yards 85 | 74
Total offense 220 | 397
Fumbles-lost 1-1 | 0-0
Interceptions 1 | 0
Penalties-yards 11-70 | 10-95
Score by quarters
Olathe North 7 7 7 14 — 35
Free State 3 0 6 0 — 9
ON: Jacob Parrish 12-70; Aquantez Love 17-93; Noah Palmer 13-100; Braden Cain 2-60.
FSHS: Matt Gabriel 1-2; Jet Dineen 16-96; Elijah Harshaw 7-31; Drew Bradford 3-(minus 3); Peyton Wheat 1-6; Jacobee Williams 1-3; Jake Kallenback 2-11. Sacks 4-(Minus 11)
ON: Noah Palmer 4-for-5 for 74 yards
FSHS: Jet Dineen 8-for-23 for 85 yards
ON: Jacob Parrish 3-58; Braden Cain 1-16.
FSHS: Jake Patchen 2-5; Daniel Kufahl 1-20; Elijah Harshaw 1-32; Manny Epelle 3-17; Drew Bradford 1-11.
HOW THEY SCORED
7:56 — Jacob Parrish 9 run. Bradley Polston kick good. (ON 7, FS 0)
4:03 — Joey Wood 45 field goal. (ON 7, FS 3)
3:55 — Noah Palmer 1 run. Polston kick good. (ON 14, FS 3)
8:16 — Jet Dineen 2 run. Wood kick blocked. (ON 14, FS 9)
2:56 — Aquantez Love 10 run. Polston kick good. (ON 21, FS 9)
11:26 — Love 4 run. Polston kick good. (ON 28, FS 9)
8:00 — Braden Cain 16 pass from Palmer. Polston kick good. (ON 35, FS 9)