Overland Park One play the first one from scrimmage, at that plus a suffocating defense were the difference Saturday as Lawrence High held on for a 6-0 Sunflower League football victory over Shawnee Mission East in the season opener for both teams at SM South District Stadium.
On the first play, LHS junior fullback Brandon McAnderson went up the middle, bounced off a couple of defenders and broke left and bolted down the left sideline for the lone score. That 56-yard run was all the Lions needed.
"I really thought it would take three or four touchdowns to win it," said LHS coach Dirk Wedd, whose squad opened with a victory for the fourth consecutive year. "Offensively, we were so inept. We're going to get better. We have some young offensive linemen that aren't ready to step up and they will. They'll grow up and we'll get better."
LHS (1-0) squandered several scoring opportunities. The Lions took over possession three times inside the Lancers' 20-yard line the 18, 13 and 15 but could not capitalize. Five LHS drives stalled inside SM East's 20. LHS turned the ball over on downs four times and fumbled once in the red zone.
"We have to be able to knock it in because that's our type of football," Wedd said, miffed by the lack of execution inside the 20. "They're loading up on us because we don't have much of a passing game, but we're going to get there. It's just going to take us some time."
McAnderson, the Lions' second-leading rusher last season with 559 yards, seemed to be in midseason form. The 6-foot, 202-pounder rushed 28 times for 135 yards. LHS finished with 251 yards total offense, all on the ground.
"That first play I think our guys were a little overjuiced and overpursued, and McAnderson cut it back and that's how he got in the end zone," second-year SM East coach Todd Dain said. "You can't tackle McAnderson one-on-one. He's too big and physical. All those guys are big and physical for Lawrence."
Of the lone score, McAnderson said, "Everybody up front got a good push off the ball and I was able to cut back."
LHS limited SM East (0-1) to 115 yards total offense 67 rushing and 48 passing.
"I've been bragging about our defense and they have a long ways to go, also," Wedd said. "The bottom line is we have kids who will fly around the field and hit you and can run."
Defensive tackle Xavier Thomas and nose guard Jonathan Albers came up with big defensive plays in the fourth quarter. Thomas stuffed SM East quarterback Danny Roberson for no gain on fourth down at the Lions' 28 the Lancers' deepest penetration with 11:24 remaining.
Albers recovered a fumble with 5:04 left at SM East's 15.
"I thought we'd score a little more than we did," Albers said. "It was a good thing that our defense held. We wanted a shutout and we played as hard as we could. Good things happen when you play hard."
Late in the first half, LHS defensive end Richard Mumford forced a fumble that was recovered by teammate Chad Lisher and returned to SM East's 13.
Lawrence's linemen consistently hounded Roberson, who completed three of 17 passes for 48 yards.
"They started trying to throw pretty quick passes and I think we got them off their game," Mumford said. "That offensive play really got them. I don't think they were expecting that. I know we can still get better."
The LHS-SM East contest had a rare 11 a.m. kickoff. The game had been scheduled for Thursday, but was postponed because of lightning.
The early kickoff didn't bother one Lion.
"State championships are played on Saturday mornings, and that's where we want to be," McAnderson said.
Senior Joe Bell highlighted the special teams. Bell averaged 42.3 yards on three punts, including a 48-yard boot.
The six points scored by the Lions were the fewest in an LHS win since Lawrence beat Olathe North, 3-0, in overtime in 1992.
LHS has won 14 in a row over SM East.
Next for the Lions is a home game Friday against Shawnee Mission Northwest. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Haskell Stadium.