In the spirit of Thanksgiving and the turkey in the oven, here's a list of things the Lawrence High football team should have been thankful for during its 11-1 state championship season.
Head coach Dick Purdy: Since replacing Bill Freeman in 1990, Purdy has guided the Lions to a 67-5 record, six appearances in the state championship game and five state crowns. His gutsy calls on fourth downs in LHS territory are worth the price of admission.
Assistant coaches. Chuck Holley, Jerry Skakal, Scott Stidham and Dirk Wedd. The camaraderie among the coaches is evident before, during and after practice. As Purdy pointed out at Tuesday's season-ending banquet, the coaches often argued strategy before agreeing on the game plan.
Tailback Thomas Daniels. His breakaway speed led to several big plays and a lot of footage for a highlight film. He gained 1,617 yards on 155 carries and had 18 touchdowns in 11 games. His 272 yards against Derby was a Class 6A title game record.
Fullback Garrett Attig. When opponents denied Daniels, Attig powered his way through the middle for 796 yards and 15 touchdowns. He had 261 yards and six touchdowns in Week 9 and 10, when Daniels was held below 100 yards and no touchdowns in each week.
Quarterback J.D. Loudabarger: Loudabarger's decisiveness and timing on the option ignited Lawrence's offense. Rarely were the Lions stopped for a loss. Loudabarger gained 401 yards in 66 attempts and ran for a TD in all three playoff games. He also intercepted three passes in the playoffs, including two in the championship showdown.
Offensive line. Shane Wedd, Lee Myers, Pat Mason, Willie McKinnis and Brett Romme paved the way for the Lions' 324.8 yards rushing average. The line remained intact, avoiding serious injuries. Cory Brock, who started the season on the offensive line, suffered a couple of concussions before recovering in time to play in the title game.
Defense: The Lions allowed just one touchdown in three playoff games and intercepted at least one pass in every game for a season total of 23.
Nate Coffman: The smallest player on the team at 5-foot-6, 131 pounds, Coffman intercepted six passes to lead the Sunflower League.
KSHSAA: Because of an obscure format that uses the district record as seeding criteria, the Lions, then 8-1, played 4-5 Shawnee Mission East in the first round of the state playoffs while 9-0 Olathe North and 8-1 Blue Valley Northwest met in the other quarterfinal. Because of the west-east formula to decide semifinal hosts, Lawrence entertained top-ranked O-North, which never did play at home in the playoffs.
Snow. The only day it snowed during the 12-week season was on Nov. 10 against Olathe North at Haskell Stadium in the state semifinals, a 32-7 LHS rout. The snow grounded O-North's passing attack. Regardless of the elements, the Lions would have won with the way they played. But I doubt the 25-point margin would have been as wide.
Athletic trainer Matt Comeau: The school's first full-time athletic trainer took a heavy burden off the coaches and helped rehabilitate Daniels and Attig after injuries in Week 2.
Red Dog: The success began during the offseason with Don (Red Dog) Gardner's summer conditioning program.