Attention Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence and all you teenagers scrambling to find spaces in the parking lots at Lawrence and Free State highs: Can anybody explain the 15th Street Conundrum, AKA the Bob Billings Parkway Puzzle?
Two years ago, bolstered by a talented senior class, Lawrence High posted a 10-2 football record. At the same time, Free State struggled to a 4-6 mark with only a handful of seniors on its roster.
This fall, bolstered by a talented senior class, Free State rolled to an 11-1 record - the best in the school's 10-year history while Lawrence, with hardly a returning starter, slipped to 6-5.
Who can explain why the district dividing line between the two high schools varies so much in terms of football skills from year to year?
Last November, Lions' coach Dirk Wedd was raving about his senior class, saying "Kids like that come along once in a great while." Bob Lisher didn't use the same words to describe this year's Firebirds, but he echoed Wedd's sentiments.
"This was a class bunch of kids to be around," said Lisher, the only football coach Free State has ever had. "They were fun. They made practice fun. They were positive and very coachable."
And, boy, were they ever skilled.
I wonder how long it will be before we see the likes of the Murphy twins again. Brian Murphy, who played running back, gained 1,095 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. Meanwhile, brother Ryan rushed for 1,084 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. In other words, if Ryan had run for 11 more yards the identical twins would have compiled identical rushing statistics.
As you know, Ryan Murphy also passed the football. And how. He threw for 1,863 yards and 15 touchdowns. In other words, Ryan accumulated 2,947 yards of offense and was responsible for 32 touchdowns.
Records are sketchy - in large part because Lawrence High doesn't believe in maintaining stats - but I don't know of any city high school player who has ever produced almost 3,000 yards of offense in a single season.
Ryan Murphy has to be the most versatile quarterback this city has ever produced. Yes, I know you're wondering about John Hadl, but Hadl was a running back at Lawrence High, primarily a runner at Kansas University and mostly a passer in the pro ranks, mainly with the San Diego Chargers.
How will Lisher replace the Murphys? He won't. But at least he won't have to try to turn straw into gold. Free State's two leading receivers - Chucky Hunter (44 catches, 504 yards) and Craig Rosenstengle (34 catches, 735 yards) - will likely take over at running back and quarterback, respectively.
Both Rosenstengle and Hunter have wheels, meaning the Firebirds won't lack for weapons, but what about linemen?
If the Murphys were the heart of these Firebirds, then linemen Kyle Weinmaster, Mikel Ruder, Christian Ballard, Andy Petz and Jimmy Bruce were the souls.
Although Free State won't necessarily be rebuilding next fall, the Firebirds will not be reloading, either. Free State should be competitive in 2007, but you have to be realistic. This was a dream season.