Lawrence High's football team will receive its stiffest challenge tonight against Shawnee Mission North since playing top-ranked Olathe North four weeks ago.
Four of the Lions' first five games were against the Sunflower League's lower division with O-North being the exception. SM North (3-2) is the first LHS opponent with a winning record since the Eagles.
Kickoff for the final game before district begins the following week is at 7:30 p.m. at Haskell Stadium.
"I'm not blowing smoke," LHS head coach Dick Purdy said. "We're scared."
What's so scary?
"We're faced with a big football team that is pretty darn good," said Purdy, whose team has won three consecutive games to improve to 4-1.
SM North quarterback Jason Hester concerns Purdy. Hester completed 30 of 70 passes for 397 yards, second in the Sunflower.
"They beat us like 40-0 or 40-6 on 7-on-7 this summer," Purdy said of Hester's team. "He can throw the football. But can he throw under pressure? I don't know. No one's pressured him too much and he's thrown pretty well."
The Indians are led in rushing by Joe Camp, who has gained 589 yards in 78 carries.
The Lions are led in rushing by senior tailback Thomas Daniels. Despite missing the SM East game and all but one series of the O-South game, Daniels has compiled 461 yards in 42 carries.
He had a career-high 186 yards rushing with two touchdowns last week against SM West. With the running success of Daniels, Lawrence threw just once.
"Our line was doing such a good job," Purdy said. "Once he and Garrett (Attig) got through the line they did a good job running the football."
Against SM North last year, Daniels had an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Lions led that game 14-7 at halftime. Quarterback J.D. Loudabarger replaced an injured Jim Ward and directed three scoring drives in the second half as Lawrence won, 35-14. It was Loudabarger's most extensive duty as varsity quarterback.
The Lions' lineup for Friday looks similar to the one they fielded for their season opener. Purdy said linebacker John Nelson, who started the past three games, won't play because of a sprained ankle. He sustained the injury in P.E. class earlier this week.
The Lions have won 19 straight over the Indians since losing to them in the '77 playoffs.
Next week, Lawrence opens district at Leavenworth. As of today, the Lions' three district opponents -- Leavenworth, Topeka West and Topeka High -- have a combined 1-14 record.
- For a halftime update and the final score, call Access at 865-5000, category 6000.