The stakes for tonight's football district championship between Lawrence High and Topeka High are simple.
"It's do or die," LHS starting offensive guard Pat Mason said. "If we lose we're out."
Kickoff for the regular-season finale is 7:30 p.m at Moore Bowl on the Washburn University campus in Topeka.
The Lions, 7-1 overall and 2-0 in district, have won six consecutive games. Topeka High, 4-4 and 2-0, has won three straight games. The winner advances to the state playoffs next Friday.
"They're a tough opponent," said LHS senior fullback Garrett Attig, who had 23 carries for 131 yards -- 46 of those on a fake punt resulting in a TD -- in last year's 31-15 victory over the Trojans. "They always seem to give Lawrence a good run. They have real good skills players and they have a lot of speed."
The Trojans' skill players may be comparable to Olathe North, the only team that has beaten Lawrence.
"The receivers (Termaine Fulton and Josh Kenoly) are better than Olathe North's," LHS head coach Dick Purdy said. "Kalon Sales can make as many yards as Olathe North's I-back (Arland Bruce). The only difference is up front on the line."
Sales didn't play last week, when Topeka High trounced Leavenworth, 31-6. He was recovering from a knee injury sustained Oct. 6 against Manhattan.
Last year, Sales rushed 15 times for 91 yards and had one touchdown against Lawrence. He broke loose for a 42-yard gain during the Trojans' first scoring drive.
Fulton, now a junior, had six receptions for 79 yards against the Lions last season. Kenoly played quarterback last year and completed nine of 17 passes for 110 yards.
Layne Keller now handles the QB duties. He has thrown for 1,146 yards and 10 touchdowns.
"They have so much speed at receiver," Purdy said. "Pass coverage is foremost in our mind."
The Lions will counter with a potent ground game. Lawrence averages 315.9 yards rushing a game.
Senior tailback Thomas Daniels has 80 carries for 963 yards (12 yards a carry) and 14 touchdowns. He's played just seven offensive series the past two weeks.
"The offensive line has done a great job," Purdy said of Daniels' success. "And Thomas has worked his tail off in the weight room for three years. He deserves everything he gets."
Mason, Shane Wedd, Lee Myers and Willie McKinnis have been mainstays on the offensive line.
"We have to approach this game like any other and keep working hard," Mason said. "We're starting to jell on the offensive line. Thomas and Garrett are running hard. (Quarterback) J.D. (Loudabarger) is playing well and we're getting better."
Purdy said offensive lineman Cory Brock, sidelined for two weeks while recovering from a concussion, should see action tonight.
"We'll ease Brock in the lineup," Purdy said.
The Lions' seven victories have been against teams with a combined 15-41 record heading into the final week. Lawrence's last two opponents -- Leavenworth and Topeka West -- have yet to win.
Lawrence is 44-0 since district began in 1981. The Lions have won 49 consecutive games over Topeka teams since 1974.
If Lawrence wins tonight, the Lions likely will entertain Blue Valley Northwest next Friday at Haskell Stadium in the first round of the state playoffs.
To get to Moore Bowl, take Burlingame Road exit off I-470 and head north to 21st Street. Burlingame Road becomes Washburn. The stadium is located just northwest of the Washburn-21st intersection.
- For a halftime update and the final score, call Access at 865-5000, category 6000.