Free State High football coach Bob Lisher nearly had a utopian Wednesday afternoon.
The sun shone down on the coach and his kneeling players before practice while Kansas City Chiefs director of special events Gary Spani, a former Chiefs linebacker, showered Lisher with praise.
Spani, at FSHS to award the 16th-year Firebirds coach with the organization’s Kansas High School Coach of the Week award, presented to Lisher a certificate signed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt, a commemorative football and a Chiefs hat. Then came a check for $500, which goes toward player health and safety equipment for the Firebirds.
Family, friends and assistant coaches of Lisher’s applauded and hollered as he was honored for the team’s 28-0 Friday victory over previously unbeaten Shawnee Mission East.
If Lisher’s wife, Diana, hadn’t got a flat tire en route to the ceremony, keeping her from seeing it in person, it would have been perfect.
Always thinking about the next game — Free State (5-1) begins district play Friday with a home game against Kansas City (Kan.) Wyandotte (5-1) — Lisher called the honor a “welcome distraction” and acknowledged it meant something to him personally.
“It means that we’re doing some good things, and our kids are buying in and doing some good things,” the coach said.
More than anything, Lisher made it clear the award was a tribute to the people he works with every day.
“Those guys (players) get out on the field and perform every week, and my assistant coaches are working hard each and every week,” Lisher said. “They came up with a great defensive plan led by coach (Brett) Oberzan last week, so it’s a total program award.
“It’s not me. It’s the total program that did this. Our guys have just continually gotten better and are playing to the point now where we’re getting a little recognition.”
As this week’s Chiefs award winner, Lisher is now a candidate for the coach of the year award, too.
Senior lineman Cody Stanclift said Lisher deserved the honor.
“He’s a great coach,” Stanclift said. “My three years, it’s been great playing for him. He’s a fun guy to be around.”