The path to the Kansas high school football playoffs will start to be paved Friday, as the first of three weeks of district play kicks off.
For the two city public schools, that means the onset of the annual round-robin foursome including Topeka High and Washburn Rural.
Free State (6-0) will play host to Topeka High at 7 p.m. Friday at Haskell Stadium, while Lawrence High (3-3) travels to Washburn Rural, also at 7.
Whichever two teams among that quartet finishes with the top records the next three weeks will advance into the Class 6A state playoff bracket. Since the adoption of the current format in 2002, neither Free State nor LHS ever has failed to qualify.
¢ On the half hour: Free State and LHS will meet in the middle game of the three-game district slate, squaring off Oct. 20 at Haskell Stadium. Because it is listed as a home game for the Lions, kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m.
¢ Divergent directions: Free State is coming off the biggest football victory in school history - a 61-0 pounding of Olathe Northwest - and Lawrence High is coming off what is believed to be the worst loss in school history, a 51-7 pasting by Shawnee Mission West.
¢ Seventh heaven: One more victory will equal the most wins ever recorded by a Free State football team. The Firebirds won seven games in 1999 and again in 2002. The school opened in 1997.
¢ Using all 11: LHS used senior Nick DeBiasse to kick off instead of senior Abby Vestal Friday night. After kicking off, Vestal, a girl, retreats to the sidelines, and coach Dirk Wedd wanted another player in coverage against SM West.
"Abby does a great job," Wedd said. "For this game, I thought we needed all 11 people trying to tackle those guys."
¢ Fleet feet: The Free State boys cross country team had more top-10 finishes (three) in the Haskell Indian Nations University 5K run Saturday than any team at the invite. Seniors Gabe Moss (fourth), Brian Leatherwood (fifth), and Jake Jordan (eighth) helped the Firebirds finish second in the team race.
¢ Fresh is best: Eudora football coach Gregg Webb attributes much of his team's success in 2006 to his new policy of using his players exclusively on offense or defense instead of both ways.
The Cardinals (6-0) have enough depth to allow that, and Webb said it allows each player to have more specialized instruction at his position.
Matthew Abel, who scored three touchdowns Friday, is an exception, playing wide receiver and defensive back.