The third time wasn't the charm. Will the fourth be?
Lawrence High's football players sure hope so when they meet Olathe South tonight in the Class 6A state playoffs.
"We all remember how they ended our season last year," Lions' running back Nolan Kellerman said. "And we're not going to let them end our season this year."
Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. at the Olathe District Activities Center.
Olathe South spilled the Lions twice last season - once during the regular season and once in the second round of the state playoffs. Both games were decided in overtime.
The Lions hoped they would avenge those narrow defeats about a month ago when they met the Falcons at ODAC, but O-South won, 14-0, posting a pair of touchdowns on long-gainers.
"We can't allow them to get big plays again," LHS defensive back Marc Albers said.
In the Oct. 6 meeting, O-South notched both its touchdowns in the third quarter. The first was a 57-yard run by speedster Devin Cummings on the second play after the second-half kickoff. The second TD was a short sideline pass from quarterback Brady Croucher to wide receiver Josh Spiek that turned into a 42-yard scoring play when LHS defender Brandon Lassiter lost his balance and fell.
"Brandon slipped, and the guy got away," Albers said, "and the guy (Cummings) got through the hole, and our whole defense bit on the fake. We can't let those things happen."
Lawrence at O-South
Who: Lawrence High vs. Olathe South Records: Both teams are 9-1 When: 7 tonight Where: Olathe District Activities Center At stake: Tonight's winner will play Olathe East or SM West on Friday in Class 6A state semifinals
Take away the 99 yards of those two big plays, and the Falcons mustered just 134 yards of offense. Meanwhile, the Lions accumulated a season-low 168 yards, had zero long-gainers and never even approached O-South's goal.
Both Lawrence and Olathe South went into that meeting with spotless 6-0 records. O-South remained unbeaten until the regular-season finale, when the Falcons bowed to Olathe East. Now both teams are 9-1, and the winner will meet either O-East or Shawnee Mission West on Friday for a berth in the 6A state-championship game.
Lawrence humbled Blue Valley Northwest, 40-6, in the first round of the playoffs a week ago.
"I think we've got all the momentum," Lawrence senior linebacker Scott Penny said. "We're coming off a big win, and we're feeling pretty good about it. I definitely think we're in for a good game."
Still, the Falcons have won three in a row over the Lions, including that 20-14 OT elimination victory in last year's playoffs.
"I think that may be to their disadvantage," Lions' center Cory Gaston said. "They know they can beat us, but I think we're more hungry."
It goes without saying, most of the members of Lawrence's senior-laden roster are hungry to avoid the heartbreak they felt following last year's narrow defeat.
"This is kind of a second chance to get back at them," Albers said. "We don't want that feeling again."
Kellerman, the Lions' leading rusher, is expected to play after suffering a left knee strain in the BV Northwest contest.
"He's OK," LHS coach Dirk Wedd said. "We'll try him."
Kellerman also plays in the defensive secondary, but Wedd wasn't sure if the 5-foot-9, 170-pound senior would go both ways.
"We'll use him on offense," Wedd said, "but I don't know yet about defense. We'll see."