The Free State High football team has been focused in practice this week, looking to take all the "what-ifs" from Thursday's 35-13 loss to Shawnee Mission North and crush them like a tackling dummy.
The Firebirds' game against Olathe East at 7 tonight at Kansas University's Memorial Stadium won't be a matchup that will allow FSHS to just cover up the errors from a week ago.
They have to get rid of them completely.
"Practice has gone pretty well," Free State coach Bob Lisher said. "We've been trying to correct a lot. We had penalties, we had turn-overs, and we had a lot of mistakes defensively."
Opponent No. 2 in Free State's challenging start to the season is Olathe East, the defending Sunflower League champion that brought back its top weapon, senior running back/defensive back Andre Jones, along with junior quarterback Derek Miller.
O-East went 10-1 last year and probably was the state's most talented team, despite falling in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs to Blue Valley North.
The Hawks started this season Friday by pummeling Olathe Northwest, 56-21, behind the versatile play of Jones, who scored four touchdowns three different ways -- rushing, receiving and returning a punt.
Miller, meanwhile, completed nine of 14 passes for 195 yards with no interceptions.
"Derek Miller puts the ball where it needs to be put," said Lisher, who attended O-East's game Friday. "Offensively, they're very good, and defensively, they're very physical, and they'll hit you."
|When: 7 tonight.Where: Memorial Stadium.Records: Free State 0-1. Olathe East 1-0.|
The Firebirds had bright spots last week, notably their 132 rushing yards against SM North. But their three biggest gains of the night -- a 22-yard carry by Brett Lisher, and 47- and 26-yard gains by Brian Murphy -- were called back because of penalties.
While it shows that the ground game is effective and the offensive line did its job last week, it also painfully proves that little mistakes went a long way in damaging Free State's Week One hopes.
"A lot of what-ifs," Lisher said. "We want to leave those behind."
The Firebirds stay at home and play Shawnee Mission Northwest next week. It's one of two Friday games the Firebirds will play in the first six weeks.