As if the frigid temperatures and snow last Friday weren't enough for Olathe North's football team, the sleeveless Lions must have sent a chill the Eagles' way in the Class 6A state playoffs.
Despite the wintry conditions, several Lawrence High players didn't wear long sleeves under their jerseys during their 32-7 victory over top-ranked and previously unbeaten O-North.
"Temperature wise we didn't need them," LHS all-Sunflower League lineman Shane Wedd said. "But once we hit the snow it was cold. I think it kind of played a mind game with Olathe North. I think they were surprised."
LHS head coach Dick Purdy was well protected from the cold weather.
"They're tougher than I am," Purdy said. "I sure wouldn't have done it. I had five layers of clothes on."
Quarterback J.D. Loudabarger also preferred wearing sleeves.
"I wasn't about to do that," said Loudabarger, who rushed for a touchdown and threw for another score. "I have to stay warm out there. That's a lineman thing. They try to show their toughness. They showed they were ready for business and got the job done."
Senior John Nelson, a 5-foot-11, 264-pounder, got the job done in his first appearance in the offensive backfield. Normally a linebacker and tight end, Nelson lined up in a power-I formation to lead-block for Garrett Attig and Thomas Daniels.
"It was something different," Purdy said. "We put him at the point of attack with the ball behind him. He was pumped about the chance to get ball couple of times."
Nelson had four carries for 14 yards. He was supposed to have another carry midway through the second quarter, but Loudabarger missed the handoff. However, Loudabarger improvised and ran around the right end for a 34-yard TD on fourth-and-two to give the Lions a 13-0 lead
"I turned around to John Nelson, couldn't quite get to him and I just kept it," Loudabarger explained. "On films, it looked pretty good."
From the sideline, the play appeared planned.
"That's when we know things were going our way," Purdy said. "It looked so smooth."
Several things went the Lions' way. They were able to play at Haskell while O-North was denied a home playoff game despite its perfect record. The weather favored the Lions while grounding O-North's potent passing game. The Lions recovered both their fumbles.
Even the decision after the coin flip went Lawrence's way. O-North won the toss but opted to give Lawrence the ball to start the game, and the Lions promptly scored on a 13-play, 80-yard drive. In the second half, the Lions chose the ball and scored on Daniels' 65-yard run on the first play.
"The coin toss went our way," Purdy said. "The weather kind of went our way. We fumbled and the ball went our way. Passes came our way. A couple of traps didn't go our way."
Daniels finished with 28 carries and 229 yards -- both career highs -- and two touchdown runs. He would have had a third but came a yard short on his lunge for the goal line in the first quarter after a 45-yard run.
"I was thinking about the first game we played them when I was almost caught from behind," said Daniels, who had a 71-yard burst against O-North in early September. "I dove and I didn't quite make it."
Lawrence (10-1) will play Derby (11-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday at Kansas University's Memorial Stadium in the state title game for the third consecutive year. The Lions won in 1993 and the Panthers won in '94.