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Archive for Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Woodling: Firebirds earning their keep

September 26, 2006

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Diana Lisher dished some good-natured grief, and I certainly deserved it.

Earlier in the week, I had predicted Olathe South would edge Free State High in an eagerly anticipated battle of Sunflower League football unbeatens.

As you may know, the final score of 37-21 doesn't indicate how thoroughly the Firebirds dominated the stunned Falcons. From the opening play - a long Free State scoring pass - until the finish, the outcome never really was in doubt.

So on the grass of the Olathe District Activities Center football field minutes after the Firebirds had celebrated, the wife of Free State coach Bob Lisher was quick to point out - in a friendly manner - my poor prognosticating skills.

"How could you do that?" she quipped. "We have the same birthday. We're Libras. And you picked Olathe South."

Diana Lisher and I do share the same Oct. 9 birthday, but not the same birth year. She is many, many years younger than me.

Anyway, a couple of autumns ago, I covered a Free State High football game that occurred a week or so before our mutual birthday, and I remember asking her what kind of a present she wanted.

"A win," she replied softly. "A win."

Times have changed. After posting losing records over the last two seasons, the Firebirds have established themselves as a legitimate Class 6A football power, a team with legitimate state-title hopes.

Someone once said - and I believe it - that the road to the state 6A championship game goes through Olathe.

Well, the Firebirds have already knocked off Olathe South and Olathe East, the last two Class 6A state finalists from the eastern half of the state. Now Free State has dates with Olathe North and Olathe Northwest over the next two weekends.

If the Firebirds win those two games, the worst they can do is tie for the Sunflower League title because the championship is determined by the outcome of the first six league games. That also means the annual intracity showdown with Lawrence High on Oct. 20 won't count in the league standings.

Curiously, though, Lawrence High might be in a position to do a favor for its geographic rival.

Right now, Free State and Shawnee Mission West share first place in the league standings with 4-0 records. If both schools win Friday, the following week will find SM West playing Lawrence High on a Thursday night and Free State meeting O-Northwest the next night.

In other words, if the Lions surprise SM West, it's possible Free State could go into that

Oct. 6 meeting with the Ravens knowing a victory would mean the school's first outright league football championship.

And wouldn't that be a memorable birthday present for Diana Lisher?

Free State opened its doors in 1997, and the best won-lost record the Firebirds ever have had is 7-3 in 1999 and again in 2002.

Will the 10th edition of the Firebirds be the best in history? It's too early to tell, of course. But the potential definitely exists.

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