|Lee Spight. Elaine Ferguson.|
Where: SM South District Stadium
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Broadcast: KC Metro Sports
Computer Spread: Free State +1.5
Last Meeting: Free State won 28-14 in week two.
Free State Run Game vs. SM West Run Defense
In their last meeting Free State was able to produce 240 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries. SM West's run defense has been stout in the latter portion of the season, with their three leading tacklers, Max Bullard, Marquan Osbey and Rashaun Owens making life miserable for opponent's run games. But Free State's running game has also steadily improved behind the efforts of TJ Cobbs and Joe Dineen. With those two running the ball so much more effectively, quarterback Kyle McFarland hasn't had to rely on his running abilities as much which has kept him healthy.
Free State Pass Game vs. SM West Pass Defense
I'm going to give the edge to Free State in this category. SM West's secondary played excellent last week, with safety Kez Demby claiming two of the team's three defensive interceptions against passing savant Brad Strauss. That being said, it was the Vikings' secondary that really performed poorly in the last meeting with Free State, allowing 161 passing yards and several completions of more than 40 yards through the air. The Vikings' pash rush, led by Lee Spight, must also play better this time around. If they don't step it up McFarland and his top receivers--Tye Hughes, Chris Heller, Blake Winslow and Khadre Lane--will be punching their tickets to the state title game, no questions asked.
Edge: Free State
SM West Run Game vs. Free State Run Defense
As I've already mentioned, SM West running back Brett Sterbach (who rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown against Free State in the first meeting) needs 138 rushing yards to become the first non-Olathe North running back in Sunflower League history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season. Think about that. Names like Barnett, Bell, Gore (X3), Hunter, Jones, Torain and Willingham were never able to topple the 2,000-yard mark. That alone seems like motivation for SM West's offense to be a little nastier and Sterbach to run a little more ruthlessly--if the magnitude of the game wasn't enough already! Free State's defensive line is excellent though, led by Cody Stanclift and Fred Wyatt, and it certainly won't be an easy task. The linebacking core is also dominant, led by Corban Schmidt, Keith Loneker and Stan Skwarlo. It's going to be a gut check for both teams when the Vikings decide to run the football. The wildcard? Andre Maloney and that Wilcdat formation. The Firebirds know it's coming, the only questions is: can they stop it?
Edge: SM West
|Demarko Bobo. LJWorld.|
The Free State secondary, led by bookend corners McFarland and Demarko Bobo, and hard-hitting safety Dineen, is freakishly athletic. Those three have been the league's best secondary all season and they tormented SM West's quarterbacks in week one, intercepting three passes. For the year those three have combined for 11 interceptions. I don't think SM West is going to plan on testing that secondary too much. A play action pass or deep fade route here or there might be called, but overall I think Free State's secondary has proven itself to be too good to really test this late in the year. Simply put, there's no point in SM West attacking the league's top secondary when the Vikings don't rely on the passing game to begin with.
Edge: Free State
Joey Reed is going to have to punt better than he did last week, but SM West's kicker/punter has been the class of the league this year in the special teams category. Free State's kicker, Antonio Schoenich, has been around for three years and has the experience to make a big field goal if he's called on to do so. Free State's top return man, Tye Hughes, crushed SM West in week two taking a punt back for a touchdown as time expired in the second half and he's a dangerous threat to score anytime he's on the field. SM West's primary returner is Andre Maloney, a player whose confidence is at an all-time high after last week.
Edge: SM West
This will be the third Sub-State appearance for both head coaches. Free State's Bob Lisher led his program to the game previously in 2006 and 2008, beating Blue Valley in 2008. SM West head coach Tim Callaghan's teams made the game in 2004 and 2006, beating Free State in the 2006. Is there a magic to winning in Sub-State? There's an argument for it. Former Olathe South head coach Mark Littrell made the game three times in his tenure (1999, 2004 and '07), winning all three times. However, he was never able to use the momentum to claim a state title. Olathe East head coach Jeff Meyers has made the game four times (2002, '05, '10, '11) but only seen his team win it once, in 2005. Olathe North's Gene Wier suffered a beatdown at the hands of Lawrence in the 1995 Sub-State game, but went on to win in all six (1996, '97, '98, 2000, '01, '02) of the Sub-State games his teams appeared in over the next seven years. All six of those Sub-State victories translated into 6A state titles for Wier and Co.