Last year's Lawrence-Olathe North high school football game proved to be tantamount to the Sunflower League title.
Expect much the same this year, when Lawrence entertains the Eagles at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Haskell Stadium. A live telecast will be available on Sunflower Cablevision.
Last season, O-North claimed a 14-6 victory on the second Friday of the regular season. The Eagles went on to win the league title undefeated. Runnerup LHS finished with just the one league loss.
"They did a real good job at it," Lawrence coach Dick Pury recalled. "They whipped us hard up front."
This year, the Eagles lost some size up front, and the Lions gained some. Still, the matchup of No. 1-ranked Lawrence and No. 5 Olathe North likely will go a long way toward determining the Sunflower League champion.
"IT'S GOING to be a more involved process this year because of the strength of Shawnee Mission South and Shawnee Mission North," Purdy said. "Those two and Olathe North and us have quite a bit of size and speed. But if Olathe North wins Friday night, they're in the driver's seat. They'll have two of us out of the way. If we win, we'll still have to play (Shawnee Mission) South and North."
The Eagles opened with a 3-2 victory over SM South a week ago tonight.
"We had some good pitching," joked O-North coach Gene Wier. "I can't speak for them, but I felt like, in our case, we had nine inexperienced players on offense."
In other words, Wier is worried the Eagles can't move the ball. Stopping it, however, shouldn't be a problem. The Eagles return seven starters on defense and just two on offense.
"WE LOST way too many players and some really talented ones, some running backs, some receivers, some big linemen," Wier said.
The defense, however, returns largely intact. Olathe North's defense was second in the Sunflower League last season, allowing about 174 yards per game. Lawrence was third with a 194-yard average.
"Last year, until late in the second game, they owned us," Purdy said, referring to the Lions' 34-21 win over the Eagles in the first round of the state playoffs. "Defensively, they're better than they were last year, simply because they got all of them back."
Purdy isn't buying Wier's concern for the offense.
"They struggled playing against a good football team," Purdy said of the Eagles' opener. "That was just two good football teams teeing off on each other. They played great defense against a really strong Shawnee Mission South football team. And Olathe North had two touchdowns called back, so they've got offensive potential."
LHS SUFFERED no serious injuries in its 35-0 opening-game win over Olathe East. Fullback-line backer Pat Eckert (shoulder seperation) and tackle Brian Robb (shin splints) did not play on Friday but will play against Olathe North, Purdy said.
Bill Ratliff, who suffered a concussion before Olathe East, will not play. And Max Cordova (leg bruise) is doubtful.
For an LHS halftime update and the final score, call 865-5000, category 6000.