McFarland leads Firebirds attack
By Dion Clisso PrepsKC Managing Editor
There is a long tradition of dual threat quarterbacks at Lawrence Free State. It seems since the program began in 1997 there has always been a talented signal caller doing damage with his legs and his arm.
In the last few years the names are easy to remember, Ryan Murphy, Camren Torneden and Dylan Perry. Last season Kyle McFarland stepped into the starting role and quickly took the mantel of the next great Free State quarterback.
McFarland led a young team that surprised many and finished with a 6-3 record just one win short of the an 11th straight trip to the Kansas Class 6A playoffs. This season the Firebirds are surprising no one. After five weeks Free State is 4-1 with only a three-point loss to defending Class 6A state champ Olathe South as a blemish on its record.
McFarland has been a huge factor for the Firebirds all season long. Free State coach Bob Lisher said his quarterback makes good decisions and leads his team every week.
“In the Sunflower League it’s tough to win with underclassmen, but sometimes you have to play with them,” Lisher said. “He had to play as a junior and did an outstanding job as a junior and now he has grown a little as a senior and he’s doing a great job for us again. He is getting the ball in the right person’s hands and making our offense click.
“He’s a playmaker. He can run the football well, he can run around people and he’s got enough speed to run by you. He keeps his eyes down field when we want to throw the ball. He is able to keep plays alive with his legs until he finds somebody open. Just the experience factor allows him to make some plays for us.”
So far this season McFarland has been keying an offensive attack that has only been held under 30 points once and scored 55 in its last game at Shawnee Mission North. Free State finds balance with its quarterback on the ground and through the air. In a 28-14 win over Shawnee Mission West McFarland had 161 yards passing and 133 yards on the ground.
Those numbers were even better in the big 55-14 win over Shawnee Mission North last week. McFarland finished with 151 yards passing and two touchdowns to go along with 131 yards on the ground.
That balance was evident in 2011 as well. Last season McFarland finished with 2,079 combined yards which was good for the sixth-best one season total in Free State history. McFarland said getting to start as a junior helped him learn the position faster and enables him to play the game at a higher level his senior year.
“It (last year) just made me familiar with the teams and what kind of defenses they run,” McFarland said. “It all kind of slowed down a little and it wasn’t as nerve racking. I just kind of got the hang of it a little more each game. This year there is nothing to hold back.”
This past week the challenge came in the form of Shawnee Mission East. The Lancers have long been known for offense but this season the defense has been stout allowing just more than 10 points a game. The Free State offense did its part scoring 28 points but the defense was the star earning the shutout. That win moved the Firebirds into Sunflower League title contention but winning a district will be just as important.
Free State has been building toward a special season. Even with a big game like Lawrence looming in the distance, McFarland said he and his teammates are focused on just what is in front of them.
“We’ve been asked about last year, but it is in the past and we have other games in front of us,” McFarland said. “Come Lawrence High week we will be ready to play. Hopefully it will be a good game by both teams. It should be because both teams are pretty good this year.”
The Lawrence game as always holds significance no matter what the records. This year the Lions are also 4-1 and their quarterback Brad Strauss is also having a special senior season. McFarland and Strauss know each other well having played baseball together and McFarland said he is excited to play against Strauss later this season.
“We’ve played baseball together on the same team for four years,” McFarland said. “It’s great to be able to know him so well and then get to compete against him on the field.”
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