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Archive for Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Woodling: Firebirds make poll look good

October 10, 2006

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One thing I learned from all those years I participated in preseason prognostication polls is that media types rarely are correct.

Too many variables invariably led to putrid picks. Sure, we keyboard pounders were right some of the time, but usually we couldn't pick a banana from a boomerang.

Not that we ever figured the coaches could do any better.

Now along come the Sunflower League football coaches, and I'm ready to genuflect in awed amazement. Boy, were those guys ever prescient.

In the league preseason coaches poll conducted in August by the Olathe News, five coaches picked Shawnee Mission West to win the league title, and four tapped Free State. Two others went for Olathe East.

Guess what? Those are the only three schools that still have a chance to capture the Sunflower League championship. The other coach's vote, incidentally, went to Olathe North, but, hey, 11 out 12 is pretty impressive.

How did they do it?

"That was based basically on what everybody had back," Free State coach Bob Lisher said. "But you still had to go out and do it and fortunately we're doing OK."

Free State is doing more than OK. The 10th edition of the Firebirds will have to fold like a windshield sunscreen down the stretch in order to avoid winning at least eight regular-season games and qualifying for the Class 6A state playoffs.

Washburn Rural and Topeka High pose no threat at all. Only 3-3 Lawrence High has a legitimate chance at thwarting the freewheeling Firebirds.

The annual intracity battle is two weeks away, and the Lions can pull the rug out on the Firebirds if they can dominate time of possession and force turnovers. What's scary, though, is Free State had six giveaways against Olathe South and still breezed, 37-21.

However the Firebirds fare over the long haul this fall, the 2006 Free State High team and the Murphy twins always will be mentioned in the same sentence. If you haven't seen Ryan and Brian Murphy perform, you really should. They're like pouring mercury out of a bottle. And Ryan has the added dimension of boasting an above-average passing arm.

In the last three weeks - all against Olathe schools - the Firebirds have averaged more than 45 points a game.

That's enough to make you shudder about what they might do to Topeka High on Friday night in their official final home game because the traditionally tepid Trojans' lone victory is a 13-7 decision over winless Topeka West.

Right now, the game everyone wants to see is Free State against SM West. On paper, those are the two strongest teams in eastern Kansas. Both teams boast talented quarterbacks - SM West's Blake Lawrence may be even quicker than Ryan Murphy - and strong supporting casts.

But since the two Sunflower League powerhouses weren't scheduled to meet during the regular season, we may have to wait for the Class 6A semifinals to witness that dream match.

Count not your chickens, however, because you may wind up having a beef.

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