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Archive for Thursday, October 7, 1999

FSHS TRAVELING TO SMW

October 7, 1999

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Shawnee Mission West erased halftime deficits each of the last two weeks to keep its record perfect at 5-0.

The Firebirds have their blinders on this week.

After last week's homecoming loss to Shawnee Mission East, Free State High's football team is focused on the task at hand -- facing undefeated SM West.

"Last week is last week," FSHS coach Bob Lisher said. "We learned from that. What we're concentrating on now is Shawnee Mission West simply because Shawnee Mission West is 5-0, they're a good football team.

"We have a chance to go over there and play them in their place and have some success if we play up to our capabilities and not make too many mistakes."

Kickoff for tonight's Sunflower League game is 7 p.m. at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium.

One thing in Free State's favor is SM West's tendency to get behind early.

Two weeks ago the Vikings trailed the Lancers, 7-0, at the half before pulling out a 21-7 victory. Last week, SM West had to overcome a 21-14 halftime deficit to defeat SM South, 31-21.

"It's not by design," second-year SM West coach Jon Krug quipped. "I would hope that doesn't happen (tonight), but I think it's helped us. Last week we didn't feel like we were out of the ballgame. We had the confidence to come back. Hopefully, we won't do that this week.

"I don't think we can do that against a team that can score as quickly and as often as Free State can."

One of the biggest problems last week for the Firebirds (3-2 overall, 2-2 league) was SM East senior wide receiver Andrew Gagnon, who had eight receptions for 186 yards and four touchdowns.

Free State faces a similar challenge this week in SM West senior Paul Vassor, fifth in the league with seven grabs for 177 yards and three TDs.

"Vassor's a tall kid at wide receiver," Lisher said. "He's got a lot of speed, has great hands and has made some touchdown catches. He doesn't have that many catches, but he has a very large yards-per-catch average (25.3)."

The Vikings also boast the fifth-rated quarterback in junior Andy Majors (25-of-62 passing for 481 yards and seven TDs with two interceptions) and No. 5 running back in senior James Churchill (89 carries for 492 yards and seven TDs).

"They're a real good offensive team," Lisher said. "They've got James Churchill, who can run extremely hard. He's a hard-nosed kid. He's not going to fake you out of your shorts too much, but he's going to make you run and catch him. And if you catch him, he's going to make you pay if you're not ready.

"Majors runs the option very well and makes great decisions with the ball. We're going to have to put some heat on him and try to confuse him a little bit in the secondary."

The Vikings also are wary of the Firebirds' offense, second in the league in scoring (32.0) and total offense (394.4).

"They've got a potent offense," Krug said. "They can score anytime and from anywhere. I'm impressed with what Chris Wheatley, Jake Lawrence and Nate Vail have done. They do a good job."

On the other side of the ball, SM West has the third-best defense in the league, only allowing 245.6 yards a game and a league-best 14.0 points per game.

"They run to the ball well," Lisher said. They play pass defense well. If we do things right up front, have our backs hit right and have everybody working as a unit, I think we'll be able to move the ball a little bit better than last week."

Lisher said Free State added a couple new wrinkles on offense this week, but hopes not to have to use them tonight.

"We've got a few little tricks up our sleeve," Lisher said. "We don't like to use those tricks, but we've got them there in case we need them. Hopefully, we'll just line up, play solid football and do what we do best."

Injury update: Senior right guard-linebacker Jimmy Hahn (shoulder) will start tonight. Senior wide receiver-nose guard Shaun Flynn (second-degree concussion) will play, but won't start.

Junior quarterback Dave Herrera (toe) practiced Tuesday and Wednesday, but still is limited. Sophomore Andron Cruse is listed as the second-string QB.

Senior wide receiver Jeff Dougherty (knee) could play, but Lisher said the team will "be very cautious with that," and that he probably won't see any action.

-- Robert Sinclair's phone message number is 832-7185. His e-mail address is rsinclair@ljworld.com.

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