Even three days after its 28-21 loss to No. 1 Olathe North, Free State High's football team still was ... pleased?
"I feel pretty good," FSHS coach Bob Lisher said Monday, after evaluating films from Friday night's game at Olathe District Activities Center. "Overall, everyone did well. We had some assignment breakdowns, things like that. But things that are correctable.
"Overall, I'm still pretty impressed with what we accomplished."
All the No. 3-ranked Firebirds accomplished in its season opener was keeping pace with the state's top-ranked team for more than 46 minutes.
But with 1:19 remaining, Olathe North junior tailback Darren Sproles -- who finished with 25 carries for 317 yards -- broke loose for one of his three touchdown runs to clinch the victory.
"I think the kids think that maybe if we make a few tackles here and there," Lisher said, "we could have won the ballgame, and I do too. We had a few missed tackles against a good back. If we do a little better job with assignments, then it's 21-21 and we're heading to overtime."
Although Free State dropped to 0-5 all-time at ODAC with the loss, morale still was high.
"We had a great practice (Monday), one of the better practices of the year," Lisher said. "I think the kids understand what we have a chance to accomplish if they stay positive and stay focused. They just want to have a good season and I think they're going to have one."
The Firebirds, who had 319 yards total offense, were led on the ground by senior running back Jake Lawrence. He had 12 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns.
"Jake did a good job," Free State senior quarterback Nate Vail said. "He played hard. He ran like he usually does, I guess. They had a big line up front, but he still made yards. He did a great job."
In his first varsity start at quarterback, Vail had 12 carries for 66 yards, and completed eight of 21 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown -- an eight-yard toss to senior tight end T.K. Peterson.
Vail also had an interception following a deflection during the Firebirds' final drive.
"Our kids played hard for 48 minutes," Lisher said. "I guarantee you they played hard for 48 minutes. Olathe North is a better football team than they were at the end of the season last year.
"So are we."
Free State's home opener is 7 p.m. Friday against Olathe South, a 54-20 winner over Shawnee Mission East last week.
-- Robert Sinclair's phone message number is 832-7185. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.