92 state title game

The last time Lawrence High and Washburn Rural met on the football field, it was the 1992 state championship game.

Tonight’s game doesn’t have those title implications, but as the district opener, it’s the most important game either team has played this season.

For the Lions, 4-2 and coming off a 21-7 win against Shawnee Mission East, it’s a game that likely will play to their strengths. Expect a tough, run-oriented game in chilly temperatures at 7 p.m. at Washburn Rural.

Lawrence won’t mind a bit.

“The later in the season, the weather has a factor on your team,” said LHS coach Dirk Wedd, whose team practiced in the rain and cold on Wednesday. “We got a good two-hour practice in, and we’ve had a good week of practice. We’re ready.”

Wedd reminded his players of that 1992 game, the fourth of five straight LHS state titles, this week. Bulletin boards have been plastered with Junior Blues statistics and memories of the LHS defense halting a Rural drive at the goal line to preserve a 23-17 win.

Some of the Lions remember watching that game, either on TV or in person, but they’ll be the only team that brings it up.

First-year Junior Blues coach Aaron Barnett, who coached at Eudora four years before this, won’t concern his team with that game, mostly because it has no bearing on his team.

“I think we have two staff members out of 11 that were at that game,” Barnett said, noting that most of his players would have been in second grade at the time. “As a whole, we’re just worried about trying to improve this week. We’re in a building phase. We’re trying to make a foundation for the future.”

Barnett has a point. Rural’s coming off five straight losing seasons, including a 1-8 record last year. This year’s 4-2 mark has seen the Junior Blues do just about everything Barnett’s asked  be tough, run the ball and limit mistakes.

“Aaron’s done a great job,” Wedd said. “That’s pretty unique in six games to have that many kids buy into your program.”

Wedd already has his players hooked, but now they’re healthy, too. Senior Brian Seymour and junior John Davis should be 100 percent, and lineman Bobby Brubaker practiced this week and might play if needed. With their return, the Lions can give linebackers Brandon McAnderson and Carl Lisher more breathers.

“I’ve been telling our kids we have no idea how good we can be because we’ve never had all our guns healthy,” Wedd said. “We stole some games with Lisher at linebacker, and he’s turned into a force. Now we can rest Brandon some of the time, and when we get Brandon rested, that’s when we can really start to do some things.”