Friday night's highly-anticipated football game between No. 1 Lawrence High and No. 2 Olathe North in Olathe won't make or break the Lions' season.
The Lions proved that last year when they lost, 42-25, at Haskell to the Eagles in the second week and were able to regroup.
The loss, not as close as the 17-point spread appeared to indicate, could have demoralized the Lions. It broke a 35-game winning streak and 45-game winning streak at home. Maybe most disheartening was the fact that an LHS team hadn't surrendered so many points since allowing 45 and 49 points on consecutive weeks of the 1974 season.
The Lions recovered, winning their next nine games to advance to the Class 6A title game for the ninth consecutive year.
LHS senior quarterback J.D. Loudabarger put this week's game in perspective moments after the Lions opened with a 33-10 rout of Shawnee Mission Northwest last week.
"If we don't get them now, hopefully we'll get them later," Loudabarger said.
Later as in the state semifinals. Chances for an LHS-Olathe North rematch on Nov. 10 are good.
Heck, the Lions lost, 14-6, to O-North during the 1991 regular season and later knocked off the Eagles, 34-21, in the playoffs. The following season, Lawrence beat O-North, 3-0 in overtime, during the regular season and 12-6 in the playoffs.
Because of Lawrence, the Eagles have never won a playoff game. In fact, O-North head coach Gene Wier was so tired of his team meeting and losing to the Lions in the first round that he advocated a change in the format for playoff pairings. For several years, the No. 1 district winner would play No. 2, No. 3 would play No. 4, etc.
Now, districts one through four and five through eight are seeded based on records. Instead of automatically playing Lawrence in the first round, Olathe North would meet the Lions in the semifinals.
If one team has been a thorn for the Lions, it's been the Eagles. Dick Purdy is 57-4 in 61 games since arriving at Lawrence High in 1990. Two of those losses have been to Olathe North.
Purdy's previous LHS teams have gone 6-2 against O-North. The Lions hold a 10-2 advantage in the series, which began in 1983.
The Eagles were denied a second game with Lawrence last year because of a 28-21 overtime loss to Olathe East in the second week of district. The loss accounted for the Eagles' lone setback in an 8-1 season.
Back from that team are several key players, including standout quarterback Jeremy Milne and running back Arland Bruce.
Seniors Bob Schmidt (6-foot-2, 250 pounds) and Sean Kelly (6-11/2, 248) provide plenty of bulk for O-North's offensive and defensive lines. Schmidt committed as a junior to play football for Kansas University.
The outcome of Friday's game will likely determine the Sunflower League victor and give the winner bragging rights for awhile. The game people will remember the most is Nov. 10 if both teams fulfill their obligations and advance that far.