It will not be an easy task for the Free State High football team tonight as it visits Olathe Northwest at the Olathe District Activities Center.
The Ravens (2-3) boast the second-leading rusher in the Sunflower League with Rodney Kenner, who rushed for 292 yards and a touchdown in Olathe Northwest's 27-17 victory over Shawnee Mission Northwest last Thursday.
"He's a big, strong, physical, fast back that we have to get a lot of people around the ball," Firebirds coach Bob Lisher said. "If you can get people around the ball quickly, then the speed doesn't affect you and then you can get your tackle and get things taken care of."
That is easy to say, but not easy to do, as was apparent in Free State's loss to Olathe South last week.
The Firebirds (2-3) surrendered 444 yards of offense to the Falcons in a 30-12 loss at Memorial Stadium, including 231 to running back Devin Cummings.
The score could have been closer if not for a dropped pass in the end zone and a turnover inside the 5-yard line.
"I know our kids realized we were a couple of touchdowns away from being competitive," Lisher said. "Young teams make mistakes. Sometimes it's experienced people making those mistakes, (and) they need to stop."
Free State At Olathe NW
When: 7 tonight Where: Olathe District Activities Center, Olathe Records: Free State 2-3, Olathe NW 2-3 Last year: Free State won, 31-11
According to Lisher, the bitter loss to Olathe South is no longer on the minds of his players.
"We've had a pretty good week of practice, this week. So I think the loss is out of their head," Lisher said. "And they realized what we've got to do now is get better and get ready for district."
The passing game could be key for the Firebirds to come away from ODAC with a victory.
In last week's victory, the Ravens yielded two touchdown passes of 38 and 59 yards to the Cougars.
That could bode well for Free State quarterback Ryan Murphy, who is coming off a 127-yard passing performance that included a 69-yard touchdown pass.
"Whatever they give us, we'll take," said Lisher of the Ravens' defense scheme. "If they put seven (or) eight people in the box, we'll throw the ball. If they put five or six in the box, then we'll run the ball. It just kind of depends on what they do."
Lisher narrowed it down to two simple things the Firebirds must do in order to come away with their third victory of the season.
"We've got to finish drives on offense and we've got to stop No. 24, Rodney Kenner, for Olathe Northwest," Lisher said. "We do those two things, we'll have a shot."