Free State football heads to SM Northwest looking to get back to .500

photo by: Emma Pravecek

Free State's defensive line prepares for the next play during the game against Olathe Northwest on Friday, Sept. 9, 2022.

The Free State High football team will play its second straight road game this week, as the Firebirds square off against Shawnee Mission Northwest at 7 p.m. Thursday night at Shawnee Mission North High School.

After an emotional come-from-behind win last week against Olathe East, the Firebirds (1-2) enter their second consecutive Thursday game recharged and ready to win back-to-back games away from home.

“The guys were really excited to win and I think that that energy carried over through the weekend,” FSHS coach Kevin Stewart said. “I think that win helped build a little momentum and some energy and enthusiasm.”

In last week’s game against the Hawks, senior running back Tay Ware led the way for the Firebirds, rushing for 78 yards and scoring the game-winning touchdown from 13 yards out with only a few seconds remaining.

Junior quarterback Wesley Edison threw for 127 yards to lead Free State’s passing attack, with the majority of those yards going to senior Cortez Overstreet, who totaled 50 receiving yards on just two receptions.

“Obviously, he had some nice plays, but there’s some plays that he can improve on,” Stewart said of Edison. “It’s just trying to continue to work on all the things that he needs to do to get better and then obviously making the right decisions.”

The Free State defense came up with crucial stops on several fourth-down plays, which kept the Firebirds’ offense in the game from start to finish and Stewart said another complete effort on both sides of the ball is needed this week.

“Shawnee Mission Northwest has a really good running back and probably the best we’ve seen so far,” Stewart said. “Defensively, they do a nice job. They are well coached and they fly around. Their defense, to me, is a strength of theirs.”

Stewart continued: “We’re trying desperately to create some turnovers on defense. Normally, if you’re not creating turnovers, it’s you’re not playing fast enough and you’re not being physical enough. I think if we could have created some turnovers maybe we are 2-1 right now instead of 1-2.”

Shawnee Mission Northwest (1-2) comes into Thursday’s matchup on the heels of two consecutive road losses to Olathe North and Mill Valley after winning their first game of the season over Shawnee Mission West at home.

With a .500 record theirs for the taking after a rough start to the season, Stewart’s message to his team has been simple.

“I’ve just been telling them all week that if you want to win football games, you got to prepare and act like winners,” he said. “You’re not going to win unless you prepare and practice like winners and act like winners and expect to win. You win because of your preparation.”


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