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Archive for Sunday, August 21, 2005

Murphy shines in Firebirds’ new spread offense

August 21, 2005

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During the summer, Free State High football coach Bob Lisher changed offenses.

On Saturday, quarterback Ryan Murphy showed why.

Operating out of the Firebirds' new spread formation, Murphy ran for three touchdowns and tossed a nine-yard scoring pass to H-back Brett Lisher during a controlled scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.

"I like it a lot," Murphy said about the new offense. "I think it will really help us get outside and beat people with our athleticism. It should be a lot of fun."

Murphy, a mercurial 5-foot-10, 170-pound junior, wasted no time making it look like a lot of fun. On the first play, Murphy dashed and darted 40 yards for a touchdown.

Later, Murphy scored on runs of 19 and three yards. He carried 11 times for 120 yards. When he passed, Murphy missed on his first two attempts, but then connected on seven in a row - four to Brett Lisher.

Twin brother Brian Murphy, the Firebirds' tailback, carried only four times, but one was a 14-yard scoring run.

Free State High quarterback Ryan Murphy sprints upfield on an option play during the Firebirds' scrimmage. FSHS held drills Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Free State High quarterback Ryan Murphy sprints upfield on an option play during the Firebirds' scrimmage. FSHS held drills Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

All in all, coach Lisher had plenty of reasons to smile, but he was more pleased by the overall effort than he was with the performance.

"We had a lot of execution errors," Lisher said. "We've thrown a lot of offense at them in one week, but when we did execute we were pretty good."

Lisher threw in a plug for the offensive line - tackles Skyler Asher and Chris Coffey, guards Jimmy Bruce and Mikel Ruder and center Kyle Weinmaster - noting that learning the new offense is just as difficult for them as it is for the backs.

"I'm sure we made mistakes in the offensive line," the coach said, "but the effort was good."

How good the offense really is probably won't be determined until the season opener Sept. 1 against Shawnee Mission North, because the Firebirds' No. 1 offense also is the team's No. 1 defense.

Lisher used as many as 10 players on both platoons Saturday.

"That's the way it is now," Lisher said, "but there is still competition for some positions."

At the same time, senior Andrew Thompson took the lead in Lisher's search for a place-kicker. Thompson was good on all four of his extra-point attempts, while sophomore Jason Sneegas kicked one and had one blocked.

"We had a special-teams practice in the morning, and I don't think we made a single extra-point," Lisher said, "so Thompson was a pleasant surprise."

Ryan Murphy clearly was the best of the quarterbacks, but back-ups Shelton Heilman and Craig Rosenstengle had their moments.

Sophomore Rosenstengle tossed a 17-yard touchdown pass to Steve Griffith, who also caught a 29-yard non-scoring pass from Heilman, a junior. On the ground, Heilman broke a 20-yard run, and Kenny Flanders, a back-up tailback, scampered 11 yards for a TD.

On defense, Bruce and Shaun James had interceptions, and sophomore end Zack Toelkes made a ringing sack of Murphy.

"I was pleased," Lisher said. "The overall effort was pretty good. We showed flashes of what we can be and flashes of how far we need to go to get to where we want to be."

The Firebirds will scrimmage again Wednesday at their annual fall sports showcase.

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