Legacies will be defined or shattered tonight across Kansas as the state football semifinals play out.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Championship-game tickets will be punched, ensuring something akin to immortality for the winning teams no matter what happens the Saturday after Thanksgiving when the Kansas state titles are decided.
History remembers titles tilts, while everything else tends to fade from memory.
And each of the six programs from the Kansas City area who face semifinals battles when kickoff arrives at 7 p.m. could use the shot in the arm a state-title appearance provides.
Lawrence Free State, 10-1, plays Shawnee Mission West, 10-1, at SM South District Stadium.
The Firebirds’ success in the last decade — including a spot in the 2008 championship game — speaks for itself, but only a state title can cement Free State’s status as an elite program in Kansas.
“It’d be nice to have that (state title) obviously,” Firebirds coach Bob Lisher said. “Right now, we’ve got a pretty good program, and people have a lot of respect for what we’ve accomplished in our 16-year history, but a state championship would put us at another level.”
The Vikings have a few state titles on the ledger, winning 5A in 1972 and 6A in 1985, but with a championship drought as long as the Royals, it’s hard to call the program a powerhouse.
“We’ve been solid with winning league titles and things like that, and we went to the state title game in 2006, but didn’t win that obviously,” SM West linebacker Max Bullard said. “It’s those state championships that really define a school and get you noticed.”
The undefeated Vikings lost to Hutchinson 21-14 six years ago in the program’s last appearance in the state final.
Getting another crack at the 6A crown would mean to world to SM West and, in particular, its seniors.
“We haven’t made our mark yet on West, so this is our chance,” Bullard said. “That’s our ultimate goal, but we’re not thinking about our legacy. We’re focused on doing our job.”
Much like Free State, St. Thomas Aquinas, 10-1, has been to a championship game recently, but Hutchinson dusted off the Saints pretty good in the 2008 5A championship game.
“It would be wonderful if we could win state,” Aquinas coach Mike Thomas said. “We’ve won a lot of state championships in other sports, but … football and boys basketball haven’t won one. It would mean a lot to the school.”
For Miege, which plays tonight at Aquinas, there is pride in the four titles and six championship appearances in the 4A ranks, but there’s also no doubt that making its mark in 5A would elevate the program to new heights.
“That would be huge,” Holmes said. “We’ve never played in a 5A state title game let alone won one. When this group of seniors was freshman, we won 4A in 2009, and we’ve talked all week about how it would be a great legacy to come in as 4A state champions and leave as 5A state champions.”
Eudora and Piper have never worn the state football crown, but one will get a crack at changing that after tonight’s semifinal is settled in Eudora.
The host Cardinals reached the state final for the first time last season and hope to break through with that first championship now.
“It would be quite an accomplishment,” Eudora coach Gregg Webb said. “When you’re talking about two straight appearances in the championship and being best team this half of state, you’re talking about achieving some things that are rare.”
The visiting Pirates understand.
Piper had never made it past the second round of the playoffs before this season, but hope to pull off the same feat Eudora managed a year ago — and create a legacy for a program without one.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.