Although not evident a month ago, back-to-back lopsided losses to Olathe South and Olathe North might have benefited Lawrence High in the long run.
Since those setbacks, the Lions have beaten Leavenworth (27-12), Free State (35-0) and Topeka (41-19). The win over Topeka clinched a Class 6A state playoff berth.
"I think it really helped to play Olathe North and Olathe South when we did," LHS coach Dirk Wedd said. "It got us to be realistic about what we could do offensively. We made some personnel changes and we also threw out a lot of our junk offense and went back to the basics and became a better option football team. Hopefully the kids realize we have a lot of football to play and make some noise in the playoffs."
Against Topeka last week, the Lions set season-high marks for points, rushing yards (361), total offense (442 yards) and first downs (25).
LHS will try to add to its late-season surge on Friday, when the Lions play at Shawnee Mission North (8-1) in the state quarterfinals. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
In district, the Lions capitalized on turnovers. LHS forced 10 turnovers and committed just four. Lion sophomore defensive back Brian Seymour had a hand in four of the opponents' turnovers, intercepting a pass in each of the past three games and recovering a fumble last week.
"Our defense has played pretty well all year long," Wedd said. "The last three or four games they've produced a lot of turnovers for us and let us drive a short field offensively and that's a big help. We're taking care of the football. We've done a good job cutting down our mistakes and that's helped a great deal.
"Being an option team, you don't get hung up on turnovers because that's the beauty of the offense. You're going to have them."
Lawrence's offense hasn't turned the ball over the past two weeks. The Lions fumbled on an interception return against Free State and turned the ball over on an onside kick against Topeka.
"We've been holding onto the ball a whole lot better," said LHS senior Dustin Goodin, who had two touchdown runs against Topeka.
Goodin started at linebacker and fullback the first six weeks before being limited at fullback in district. Since concentrating more on defense, Goodin has actually been more effective as a backup fullback. He has five touchdowns with three of those coming in the past three weeks.
"It is working out," Goodin said of being limited at fullback. "I've been getting more rest and able to go more harder. I'm liking it. I'm liking it a lot."
League leaders: Lawrence High placed three players among the top 10 rushing leaders in the final Sunflower League statistics. LHS quarterback Devin McAnderson ranked fourth with 763 yards. Sophomore fullback Brandon McAnderson, Devin's brother, ranked eighth with 487 yards. Senior slotback Damon Benitez ranked 10th with 410 yards. His 10.5 rushing average ranked No. 1.
Injury update: LHS senior lineman Danny Young missed the Topeka game because of a knee injury. He will be re-evaluated later in the week, Wedd said. LHS senior Brandon Massey (sprained neck) and Paul Houle (sprained knee) are questionable for Friday.