Lawrence High head football coach Dirk Wedd put a premium on preparation before Friday's season opener against Shawnee Mission North.
Extra effort in practice likely factored in the Lions' 17-11 come-from-behind victory over the Indians at Haskell Stadium.
"Thursday we were in full pads at 5 p.m. and not many high school teams work that hard," Wedd said.
The Lions were able to overcome four turnovers -- two fumbles and two interceptions -- and a costly roughing-the-kicker penalty. All the miscues came in the first half.
"We stressed taking care of the ball," Wedd said. "For us to be down six points (9-3) at halftime, we have to take our hats off to the defense."
Both fumbles occurred on special teams. Senior Charles Brown fumbled the opening kickoff and mishandled a punt, recovered by SM North on its own 38-yard line. Brown missed most of his junior season because of knee injury.
"It's going to take him a while to adjust to handling the football," Wedd said. "He mostly played defense. We worked on returns (Monday). We're going to keep working."
LHS produced 264 yards offensively -- 234 rushing and 30 passing. A chunk of the rushing yardage came on Jason Fender's 93-yard touchdown run to spark the Lions' fourth-quarter comeback.
"Offensively we need to do a better job of getting off the ball up front," Wedd said. "We're going to be a running football team and try to knock people off the ball. We didn't control the ball and we need to do that."
LHS did excel defending the run. The Indians mustered just 74 yards on the ground.
The Lions sacked SM North quarterback Danny Bartlett six times. Joel Dankenbring stuffed Bartlett -- then lined up as a halfback -- for an 11-yard loss on fourth down.
LHS forced two fumbles in the first half and Lion junior linebacker Dustin Gooden recovered both of them.
A newcomer to LHS football figured in the Lions' first points against SM North. Senior Blake Allen, out for football for the first time, kicked a 25-yard field goal on his first attempt.
"We worked hard to get Blake out for football," Wedd said. "He's just not a kicker. He's not a bad receiver or defensive back. Bryce missed the tee, put it on the ground and he kicked it off the ground."
The victory over SM North came in Wedd's head coaching debut.
"Our first win was his first win," said LHS senior defensive end Mark Huston, who had two sacks on the Indians' final series. "It's a great feeling playing for coach Wedd."
Next for LHS is traveling to Manhattan, a 19-15 loser to Wichita Northwest last week, on Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
-- Steve Rottinghaus' phone message number is 832-7152. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org