With the first week of district football starting tonight, Free State High has plenty to be happy about.
The Firebirds are off to the best start, 6-0, in school history. Free State is one of two schools, along with Shawnee Mission West, undefeated in the Sunflower League. The Firebirds average more than 41 points per game, and give up only 11.8.
Free State will play host to Topeka High (1-5) at 7 p.m. tonight at Haskell Stadium.
Despite Free State's impressive resume, coach Bob Lisher said there were areas for improvement - like the kicking game.
"We generally have to go for two on the second touchdown because we miss that first extra point," Lisher said. "Hopefully we can get someone to be consistent."
Breaking it down by the numbers, Free State kickers have converted only 19 of 30 extra points on the season. That's only 63 percent. Free State has had a kicker carousel this season as well. Four kickers - seniors Philip Ozorkiewicz and Mitch Morrow, and juniors Jason Sneegas and Dylan Holtkamp - have taken aim at the uprights. Most of the time, it hasn't made a difference. Free State has defeated its opponents by an average of 29.5 points. But after the Topeka game, Free State knows it will likely get Lawrence High's best game in a Week 8 showdown at Haskell Stadium.
"It's a very big concern," Lisher said. "You get to this time of year, every point is critical. We have to make sure our kids understand that."
Lisher said he had no formula for deciding which kicker would start. Free State coaches simply evaluate them in special teams drills on Thursdays. Free State's probable starters are the same from last week, meaning Ozorkiewicz is the likely candidate to start tonight.
In future games, Lisher said he had no intention of going for two after Free State's first touchdown. The Firebirds will kick the extra point.
Senior running back Brian Murphy, who has 12 touchdowns in six games, did not play the second half last Friday against Olathe Northwest because of a sprained right ankle. He said he felt about 80-85 percent Wednesday. Lisher held Murphy out of practice earlier in the week to prevent further injury. His first day back to practice was Wednesday.
"I've been able to run on it," Murphy said, "but mainly, I'm just having trouble cutting on it. I haven't been able to accelerate like I usually can. That's why I'm holding out as much as I can right now to get back to 100 percent, because that's mainly what I do, is just to be able to cut and make people miss."
Lisher said he would evaluate Murphy after Thursday's practice to determine his status for tonight.
"If it feels better, then we'll play him," Lisher said.
Senior running back Bobby Burnham filled in admirably for Murphy last week, tallying 127 yards on 10 carries. He understood Murphy's involvement in the offense, but said he'd be ready to fill in whenever needed.
"I felt like I had to step it up and make sure I filled in for him," Burnham said. "I'm not going to do as great as him. But it feels good to know that we have some depth."
Free State defeated Topeka High, 29-6, last season.