All's well that ends well for Free State High's football team.
After suffering through a school-record seven-game losing streak, the Firebirds' trying 2000 season came to a close Friday night with a 28-13 victory over Leavenworth.
"It was important just being able to, if nothing else, let the seniors have some success that basically they deserved," FSHS coach Bob Lisher said. "They're a bunch of good kids that needed something positive to happen and they went out and made something positive happen in their last game."
After opening with a 21-14 victory against Shawnee Mission West, the Firebirds (2-7 overall, 1-5 Sunflower League) didn't win again until the finale.
"Obviously we were pleased that we could win the first game and the last game, but we would have liked to have won a couple others in between," Lisher said. "It was very pleasing for us, in the last game, to be able to send the seniors off with a win and to have a win to carry into next year and maybe try to build on."
All told, the Firebirds had seven seniors Jake Coffman, David Herrera, Scott Imada, Frankie Noyola, Tyler Pearce, Brad Pohl and Matt Sowders who were with the squad all three years.
Imada (shin) and Pearce (arm) both were knocked out with injuries down the stretch, but perhaps the most impressive case of playing with pain was Coffman, who played despite having separated both shoulders. He also suffered an ankle injury.
"He played through quite a bit this year," Lisher said of Coffman, who will undergo surgery on his left shoulder Friday morning. "He never complained, never said a word to us. I didn't even know he had a shoulder problem until Olathe East, when he came running off and said his shoulder was out.
"Next thing I know, he's back in the game."
The Firebirds also will lose their leading rusher in starting tailback Noyola, leading passer in starting quarterback Herrera and third-highest defensive-points scorer in starting defensive tackle Craig Brewer.
"Record-wise, it's not what we had hoped for," Lisher said. "We knew we were going to struggle a little bit more this year. We just didn't think that we would struggle quite this much. I really appreciate the effort of our kids.
"Our uniforms didn't quite fill up like some of the other uniforms we played against this year, but that's going to change."
Free State will return eight players on both sides of the ball who started at least a couple of games. Several of those were starters.
Among the team's top returners will be wide receiver Chris Barr, fullback/inside linebacker Walker Douglas, center/inside linebacker Jeremiah Gress, tailback/cornerback Brandon Jackson and the entire offensive line.
"The future looks very bright," Lisher said. "When you have that many starters coming back your experience level is going to be way up, plus I'm very pleased with our sophomore class and the numbers in our sophomore class."
The FSHS sophomore squad led by next year's probable varsity starting QB, Matt Berner was 6-3.
"There's some quality players in the sophomore class and some hard-nosed players," Lisher said. "They need to get in the weightroom now to get that year of extra size and strength.
"But combine those with our juniors and I think our prospects for next season are pretty good."