Three ranked teams in four weeks. You couldn't blame Free State High football coach Bob Lisher if he begged: "Take my schedule. Please."
Lisher doesn't see it that way, however.
"It's a challenge to our program and to our kids," Lisher said, "but if we want to get to that level we have to compete and win at that level."
Olathe South, ranked No. 1 in at least one Class 6A state prep poll this week, is the next challenge.
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. today at Memorial Stadium. Free State fans will sit on the west side of the Kansas University facility. A delayed telecast will be available at 10:30 p.m. on Sunflower Broadband Cable 6.
The gantlet of Top Five teams began with a 28-6 loss at Olathe East three weeks ago. A week later, Free State bounced back with a 28-21 win over unranked Shawnee Mission Northwest, but then unbeaten SM West dropped a 52-7 anvil on the Firebirds.
Now comes Olathe South, which currently shares first place in the Sunflower League with SM West, Olathe East and Lawrence High. All four schools boast 4-0 records.
O-South, with six starters back from the team that bowed to Hutchinson in last year's Class 6A state championship game, features a pair of gamebreakers in Devin Cummings and Tony Bryant.
Olathe South at Free State
When: 7 tonight Where: Memorial Stadium Records: Olathe South 4-0, Free State 2-2
"They're waterbeds," Lisher said of the Falcons' quicksilver backfield duo. "They're fast and they make people miss."
The Firebirds have a couple of offensive weap-ons, too, in twin brothers Ryan and Brian Murphy, but the supporting cast is thin. Lisher has been using 10 players, including the Murphys, on both offense and defense all season, and second-half weariness has been palpable.
Nevertheless, Lisher is not blaming last week's lopsided loss to SM West on fatigue.
"What happened is that a lot of football is trusting in your teammates to do their job," Lisher said, "and when we got burned for a couple of touchdowns that trust broke down, and it snowballed into a rout."
Free State was more competitive in its game against Olathe East, falling primarily because the Firebirds' spread offense was unable to produce inside the red zone.
Free State and Olathe South have had one common opponent - SM North. Free State popped the Indians, 27-9, in the season opener. A week later, the Falcons trimmed SM North, 32-7.
Today's game is the first of two the Firebirds will play at KU's stadium. The other will be Oct. 21 against Lawrence High. Free State also plays at Haskell Stadium.
"We appreciate KU and Haskell letting us use their facilities," Lisher said, "but it would really be nice to have a facility of our own."
Free State High has a dual football-track layout on its campus, but the site has no lights , the grandstand is tiny and there are no restrooms or concessions.
Free State (2-2) will meet Olathe Northwest next Friday at the Olathe District Activities Center.