Archive for Friday, October 10, 2008

Humbling defeat

O-North ends Free State’s winning streak, 35-7

FSHS senior Chucky Hunter (2) sheds Olathe North defenders Thursday, Oct. 9, 2008 during the Firebirds' football game at ODAC.

FSHS senior Chucky Hunter (2) sheds Olathe North defenders Thursday, Oct. 9, 2008 during the Firebirds' football game at ODAC.

October 10, 2008


Free State battles Olathe North

Every prep football player lives for the Friday night lights. But at Free State High School, the Firebirds are trying to get comfortable playing Thursday evening contests instead. Enlarge video

— Thoroughly humbled were Free State High's football players as they jogged toward the buses that would take them back to Lawrence.

"We were feeling pretty strong before the game," senior Taylor Stuart said. "We didn't expect anything like this."

Once-beaten Olathe North blunted Free State's two-game win streak with a 35-7 stuffing on Thursday night at the Olathe District Activities Center.

The Firebirds went into this one feeling like they could prove they were competitive against one of the league's best teams. Instead, they were blunted decisively.

Olathe North, led by junior tailback James Franklin's 179 rushing yards and three touchdowns, ran 60 offensive plays to the Firebirds' 41 and rang up 307 yards of offense.

Free State managed only nine first downs, and a third of those came in the last two minutes when it posted its lone score. The Firebirds scrounged for a piddling 136 yards of offense.

"They're the No. 1 defense in the league," Free State coach Bob Lisher said of the Eagles, "but I didn't expect that performance by our offense. They were beating us up front defensively."

Olathe North led 14-0 before the Firebirds managed to record a first down, but Free State's attack finally came to life midway through the second quarter.

A 17-yard run by Chucky Hunter carried the Firebirds to a first-and-goal at the Eagles' seven. Free State, it appeared, had finally come to life.

But then a holding penalty - curiously, the only flag thrown against the Firebirds all night - set them back, and two plays later Camren Torneden's underthrown pass was intercepted by O-North's Kyle Swartz.

Notably, too, during that abortive drive the Firebirds' lost center Michael Lisher to a leg injury. Lisher, the coach's son and a two-year starter, did not return. Nevertheless, the Firebirds were trailing by only two TDs at intermission. They weren't out of it.

"Defensively, we played well enough to win in the first half," coach Lisher said, "but we couldn't get it going offensively."

Unfortunately for the Firebirds, that trend continued after the break. Torneden threw his second interception on the first possession of the third quarter, and O-North needed to go only 36 yards for another score.

Then, Franklin broke free for a 40-yard TD gallop in the third quarter to boost the Eagle's lead to 28-0. And with 7:54 remaining, Franklin applied the coup de grace with a 7-yard TD jaunt.

In the meantime, Free State had failed to register a single second-half first down. Finally, with the field full of O-North reserves, Torneden tossed a 20-yard TD pass to Connor Stremel with 1:54 showing to prevent the shutout.

Worth noting, too, was the extra point kick by newcomer Gabe Ballard-Hansen because that boot ended the Firebirds' streak of 10 consecutive failed extra-point attempts.

Olathe North climbed to 5-1 in the Sunflower League and 5-1 overall. Free State is 2-2 and 3-3 and will begin district play next Thursday at Leavenworth.

"We've got to get ready for district now," Lisher said. "We've got to learn from this and put it to bed."

Unbeaten Shawnee Mission West pasted the Pioneers, 69-6, in Thursday night's other league game.


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