The last time the Olathe East and Free State High football teams met in the Class 6A state playoffs, Hawks coach Jeff Meyers found a unique way to catch the attention of the Firebirds.
He guaranteed that Olathe East would win.
The year was 2006, and the Firebirds, led by the dynamic 1-2 punch of brothers Ryan and Brian Murphy, entered the second-round playoff game against the Hawks at 10-0 and as the decided favorites to win the game.
East, meanwhile, came into the contest on the heels of an emotional first-round victory against crosstown rival Olathe South. Sensing the need to keep his gang focused on the monumental task ahead, Meyers wasted no time and uttered the bold prediction as soon as the victory against Olathe South was in the bag.
“I did it as a motivational tool for my kids,” Meyers said at the time. “Kids get so pumped up for crosstown rivals that it’s tough to keep that intensity for back-to-back games. This helped our kids keep that intensity. We had a great week of practice and were really ready to play.”
That showed early on, as the Hawks jumped out to a 6-0 lead and actually led twice in the first half before the Firebirds took control.
“I hoped that when we scored on our opening possession, they would sort of say, ‘Uh oh, how in the heck is this happening?’” Meyers said.
Free State coach Bob Lisher said his team was aware of the guarantee and that, if anything, it actually fired up his bunch a little more than it might have been.
“When we first heard about it, we thought it was kind of funny, but we didn’t pay much attention to it,” Lisher said. “He was looking for a way to motivate his team, and I guess he thought that would be a way to do it. Who knows whether it worked or not. We won the game. That’s all that matters to us.”
Neither coach went so far as to make any sort of guarantees about tonight’s game.
“I don’t think I’d ever do something like that,” Lisher said. “But everybody’s different. You gotta do what you gotta do.”
The Firebirds (7-2) will play host to Olathe East (6-3) at 7 tonight at FSHS, and the winner will move on to play in next Friday’s second-round contest against the Olathe North-Shawnee Mission East winner.