If Leavenworth were a frying pan, then Olathe East will be a blast furnace.
"Our kids know this week will be a different test," Free State High football coach Bob Lisher said.
Free State will meet Olathe East, a team that has reached the Class 6A state title game each of the last two seasons, on Thursday night at Haskell Stadium.
The Hawks are light-years better than Leavenworth. Free State blitzed the punchless Pioneers, 60-0, Friday in Leavenworth in a contest so lopsided the clock ran continuously in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Ryan Murphy, who logged less than three quarters of duty, ran for two touchdowns, passed for two more and returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a TD.
Murphy, who led the league in total offense last season, put up big numbers against O-East last season, too. Murphy compiled 298 yards of offense (234 passing, 64 rushing), yet the Hawks won handily, 28-6.
Without a doubt, that defeat was the Firebirds' most frustrating during a 4-6 season.
"Absolutely," Lisher said. "We ran 22 plays to their three to start the game, and yet we were down, 7-0."
At that point, the Firebirds had amassed 150 yards to the Hawks' four yards and had out-first-downed O-East, 10-0. Three times the Firebirds marched inside the Hawks' 15-yard line and came away with nothing.
Worse, the third invasion was a disaster. Jason Sneegas attempted a 26-yard field goal, but the three-point try was blocked and returned 80 yards for an uncontested touchdown by O-East's Adam Parks.
"That block turned it around," Lisher said.
Free State trailed, 14-6, at halftime despite owning a 241-118 edge in total offense. In the second half, the Firebirds also botched a couple of scoring opportunities.
"We were inside their 15 seven times," Lisher said, "and came away with one touchdown. Everything that could go wrong went wrong."
The Firebirds suffered five other losses in '05, but none of the others matched that one on the futility chart. Never again were the Firebirds so frustrated in enemy territory.
"We were able to remedy that problem," Lisher said. "We fixed some things after that."
Olathe East also opened with a shutout Friday. The Hawks blanked Olathe Northwest, 20-0, as senior running back Demetrius Bell rushed 29 times for 187 yards and all three touchdowns.