For 42 minutes of Friday night's game with Shawnee Mission West, Lawrence High's football team played like a team ready to win another state championship.
They controlled the game with sustained drives while denying the Vikings the ball and allowing no points until SM West blocked two punts in the final six minutes, which ruined the Lions' bid for their first shutout of the season.
Instead, they settled for a 33-14 victory to improve to 4-1.
LHS head coach Dick Purdy remembered the two botched punts more than the rest of the game.
"We looked like a better team except for our punting," Purdy said. "We showed quite a bit of improvement last Friday, but West (now 0-5) is struggling."
The Lions led 33-0 after scoring on five of their first seven possessions. Most of the starters were pulled after John Karr's fourth touchdown with 5:14 left in the third quarter.
However, Purdy stuck with his top punting unit, which made the blocked punts more disappointing. The Lions avoided punting until their final possessions. Lawrence's Tommy Wiles also had a punt blocked in the Lions' loss to Olathe North.
"We've been trying to get it worked out in practice," Purdy said. "We've missed some assignments and our timing is off."
Lawrence's running game was on. The Lions rushed 65 times for a season-high 358 yards as eight players had at least one carry. Karr had 22 carries for 116 yards. Senior quarterback Jim Ward had seven carries for 81 yards.
"I think the team is coming along," said Ward, who attempted just two passes against West. "We had a lot of new people trying to learn new positions early on and they're starting to improve."
Senior defensive end and offensive guard Nate Williams believes the Lions have improved with the district opener 10 days away.
"The intensity was there and I think we proved to a lot of people we could play some football," Williams said.
LHS senior Gabe Hopkins finally played some football last week. Hopkins, projected as a starting linebacker before the season, injured his back in late July and had been sidelined until the SM West game.
"Strength-wise he is OK," Purdy said. "It takes a while to get his legs under him. He didn't run for seven weeks."
Purdy expects linebacker Dominik Kilpatrick, who missed last week's game because of a knee injury, to return to action against Shawnee Mission North on Friday.
Purdy also expects center Shane Wedd to be ready for the game at SM North Stadium. Wedd hyperextended an elbow last week.