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High School Sports

High School Sports

Firebirds’ defense looks for boost

September 18, 2009

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Last week, the Free State High football team fixed its own turnover woes. This week, the Firebirds are hoping to create some for their opponent.

After surrendering five turnovers in a season-opening loss to Olathe East, the Firebirds righted the ship last week by taking care of the ball to perfection during a 36-3 victory against Shawnee Mission East.

“We did a nice job of not giving the turnover last week; now we need to work on getting a couple,” FSHS coach Bob Lisher said.

That brings us to this week’s practices. Although Lisher said his team always focuses on creating turnovers — stripping the ball on every play and attacking passes as they hang in the air — during defensive drills in practice, he indicated that the area drew special attention this week.

“We might have put a little extra emphasis on it,” he said with a smile.

Taking the ball away from the Shawnee Mission North might be more difficult than in years past because the Indians (2-0) enter tonight’s 7 p.m. game at Free State with a ton of confidence stemming from one of the best starts in recent memory.

In racking up victories against Lawrence High and Leavenworth to open the season, the Indians have flashed a little bit of everything on both sides of the ball. After looking at the film of both games, Lisher seems to have boiled down both units to two simple traits.

“They have talent on offense and speed on defense,” Lisher said. “I think we can match up with their speed, what we have to do is match their execution on both offense and defense.”

North is led by dynamic playmaker Arthur Rucker, but also features a variety of other capable offensive weapons, including sophomore running back Kendall Kelly, senior fullback Joe Haas, senior wideout Will Maynard and junior quarterback/place kicker Kyle Goodburn.

While the Firebirds will use tonight’s test as another opportunity to improve, they can’t help but take note of the momentous occasion of opening their new stadium for the first time. Lisher said he spoke to his team this week about what playing the first game at the new venue was all about.

“I just told the kids never to take anything for granted, especially something this nice,” he said. “A lot of people really stepped up to bring something this nice to our school and I think the best way to thank them for that is by going out and playing hard.

“The kids are excited to play here; they finally get to protect their home turf.”

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