Now the real season starts. At least that's the approach most high school football teams will take when district play begins this week.
That includes Lawrence High and Free State.
"From Day 1, we break our season up into three different parts," LHS coach Dirk Wedd said. "The first couple of weeks, we're just trying to feel out our team. The middle part we're trying to get our lineup set. "Once district starts, you're going 100 miles and hour to win every game."
Free State may be the best example of that. Last year, the Firebirds entered district play 0-6, yet reeled off three straight wins for the crown.
They did nearly the opposite heading into district this season, winning their first five games before losing to Olathe North, 35-7, last Friday. Even with the improved record, FSHS coach Bob Lisher thinks his team needs work.
"We obviously want to do well in districts because the team that wins get to host a first round playoff game," he said. "The main thing now is we just have to get back and improve fundamentally."
The Firebirds won't change any of their practice routines in preparing for a home game against Topeka High, though Lisher said they'll likely spend less time on schemes in practice and more time on fundamentals.
The Lions, 4-2 and coming off a 21-7 win against Shawnee Mission East, emphasize district play with a tradition of their own switching practice fields.
Normally, the Lions practice on the unmarked field south of the high school. They switched to the stadium field west of the school Monday, where they'll finish out the season.
"It's just so they understand the importance of districts," Wedd said. "Whether or not that makes a difference, I don't know. It's just something we do."
On the mend
Neither team had any new injuries after last week's games, but the Firebirds are still without Stanley Redwine and Jeremy Bustamante. Redwine, a senior receiver/cornerback, will miss another week because of an injured wrist, while Bustamante is out for the season because of an unidentified head injury. He's still waiting on final word from his doctor on the specific injury.
LHS senior running back Brian Seymour finally got back in action after missing four games with a strained MCL in his left knee. He participated in 25 plays against the Lancers. Junior John Davis should play this Friday, while senior lineman Bobby Brubaker could return for the Free State game on Oct. 25.
A game only a mother could love
The Lions had three touchdowns called back against SM East because of penalties. Still, Lawrence got enough production from its running game 355 yards on 50 attempts to win. But it wasn't pretty.
"There comes a time in the season when you have to win ugly, and that's what we did," Wedd said.
Lisher couldn't overemphasize his team's struggle with fundamentals against Olathe North. Missed tackles along the line of scrimmage led to the Eagles racking up 428 yards rushing, by far the most allowed by the Free State defense.
"We have to temper our enthusiasm sometimes, so we can get out of position," Lisher said. "We still have to work on our basics, blocking and tackling."
Stats and stuff
FSHS junior punter Cole Douglas leads the Sunflower League in punting, averaging 38 yards a kick, more than a yard better than Leavenworth's Josh Smith. Firebirds quarterback Matt Berner leads the league in touchdown passes (13) and QB rating (95.6). LHS senior running back Brandon McAnderson, second in touchdowns scored (14), needs 10 yards to break 1,000 yards rushing this season. Chris Fulton, third among league rushers with 696 yards, leads the league with 10.4 yards a carry.