If there has been a recurring theme to Lawrence High's football season, it has been this: early and often.
That's exactly how the Lions scored against Shawnee Mission North and why LHS, by virtue of a 38-7 win over the Indians on Friday night at Haskell Stadium, is headed to the Class 6A state championship game for the eighth straight season.
The Lions, 11-0 and winners of 33 straight, will face Derby (11-0) in the title game next Saturday. Derby advanced with a 13-7 overtime win over Manhattan on Friday. Kickoff for the state title tilt is 2 p.m. at KSU Stadium.
LHS jumped to leads of 14-0 at the first-quarter mark and 31-0 at the half.
"I think a big key was getting on those guys early," LHS senior quarterback-cornerback Brad Romme said. "We just jumped on 'em."
Indeed, the first two possessions were the game in microcosm. SM North took the opening kick and started from the 20. The Indians lined up in formation for a trick play -- the swinging gate -- and the Lions charged through to throw the Indians for a 5-yard loss. Three plays later, SM North had to punt.
Lawrence took the punt at the 45 and in six plays -- including John Karr's spectacular diving catch of Romme's 30-yard pass -- the Lions took a 6-0 lead.
"On their first drive, we held 'em to three-and-out and then we scored," LHS senior running back-wideout-defensive back Wayne Martin said. "We just took control from there."
The Indians tried to wrest some control back on their second possession. SM North's Rodney Bausby ran 71 yards for an apparent touchdown, but the Indians were called for illegal motion. The TD was called back, and the Indians punted again.
Again LHS took over -- on the Tribe's 49 -- and again the Lions scored. Lawrence drove to the 36 and punted, but the Indians were flagged for illegal participation, giving LHS first-and-10 on the 21. On first down, Romme scored on an option keeper and Thoren ran the extra point for a 14-0 LHS lead.
"We started off making mistakes," SM North coach Bob Stauffer said. "We had too many things go wrong for us. But Lawrence makes a lot of things go wrong. We just royally got kicked."
The kicking continued in the second quarter. LHS punted away its first possession but scored on its next three -- on a 6-yard Martin run, and 87-yard pass from Romme to Charles Graham and a 30-yard Tom Wiles field goal -- to give the Lions a 31-0 halftime lead.
The Indians managed just 40 total yards and two first downs in the first half.
"They seemed to give up at the half," said Graham, a senior end. "They were hyped up for a few minutes, then they just gave up."
LHS rolled up 372 total yards, including 224 rushing. Romme passed for a season-high 148 yards.
"We kind of had to pass," LHS coach Dick Purdy said. "They were loading it up in there. It was pretty clogged."
The Indians scored their only touchdown in the fourth quarter, against the LHS reserves. SM North had 101 of its 162 total yards in the final period.
"We played pretty hard," Purdy said. "We played OK. I don't think we played great, but we did play with great effort. Offensively, they did some things we couldn't get a good handle on. I don't know that we ever got it figured out."