Attention, Free State High football coaching staff: Bench Brian Murphy for tonight's game against Topeka High.
Now, before all the Firebird faithful tell me I have no idea what I'm talking about, reason with me for a few paragraphs.
Murphy injured his right ankle last week against Olathe Northwest. Coach Bob Lisher held him out of practice this week until Wednesday. When I attended Wednesday's practice, Murphy told me his ankle felt only 80-85 percent healthy.
"It's feeling fine, I'm just having trouble cutting on it right now," Murphy said. "I haven't been able to cut and accelerate on it like I usually can."
On Thursday, Lisher said Free State's probable starters hadn't changed from last week, suggesting Murphy will see at least some action tonight.
"It depends on his ankle," Lisher said. "If it's not as sore, we'll play him."
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out Topeka High (1-5), with all due respect, isn't anywhere close to as talented as Free State (6-0). THS has given up an average of 31.6 points per game. I guarantee Topeka hasn't faced a team like Free State, which averages more than 40 points per game. In fact, Topeka's lone victory this season came against Topeka West - a Class 5A program.
I recognize it's the first game of district play, but why risk playing arguably the best Free State offensive weapon?
If you haven't seen Murphy play, he looks like LaDainian Tomlinson's high school clone. He even wears No. 21. He produces stat lines like LT also (12 touchdowns in six games, two of those touchdowns via the reception).
If you're a FSHS football fan and still think Murphy should play, let me try to persuade you some more. Look at the next game on Free State's schedule after tonight. Free State must have Murphy playing at 100 percent against Lawrence High.
Murphy has stepped up in big games this season, and he should have the opportunity to do so next week against LHS. The best team Free State played this season was Olathe East in Week Two. Murphy accounted for three touchdown runs in that game. If Free State wants to resurrect the 3-6 all-time record it has against the Lions - and advance far in the playoffs - Murphy shouldn't play tonight.
This is the deepest Free State team in the school's 10 years of existence. It's not like the Firebirds don't have capable backups to spell Murphy. Senior Bobby Burnham rushed for 127 yards and a score in two-and-a-half quarters last week against Olathe Northwest. Senior Dale Coons rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns. And that was against Sunflower League competition.
Without Brian Murphy in the lineup, the Firebirds are still more experienced on offense than most other teams. Free State boasts the Sunflower League all-purpose yardage leader, Ryan Murphy, under center. The Firebirds have Sports Illustrated's best football player in Kansas and Iowa commit Christian Ballard, a senior tight end. Lisher should notice mismatches all over the field during film study.
Free State shouldn't look ahead to the Lawrence High game. But it should realize it needs a healthy Brian Murphy to change that all-time record to 4-6.