Archive for Friday, November 18, 2005

Tittrington: LHS resurgence has special meaning for ‘95 squad

November 18, 2005


When J.D. Loudabarger and Shane Wedd walked off the Memorial Stadium turf back on Nov. 18, 1995, they felt secure in their place in the storied history of Lawrence High football.

They had just finished off a dominating 20-0 victory over Derby in the Class 6A state championship game, the Lions' sixth state title in a seven-year span. That team finished 11-1 under coach Dick Purdy, the lone setback coming in Week 2 of the regular season against Olathe North.

Loudabarger started at quarterback and also intercepted a pair of passes on defense. Wedd started at center and anchored an offensive line that also included Pat Mason - the son of former KU and current Minnesota head coach Glen Mason - and Brett Romme, now an assistant coach at Free State High.

Together, that unit paved the way as Thomas Daniels ran for 272 yards, at that time a record for a 6A title game.

It was a good time to be a Chesty Lion.

"I don't think it was in the front of our mind that it would be the end of an era," said Wedd, the son of current LHS head coach Dirk Wedd. "I think it probably would have been a surprise if you'd told us 10 years, that it would be that long."

Then again, the football gods sometimes have a sick sense of humor. So twisted that, once LHS started to slide in 1996, it took an even 10 years for the tradition-rich program to again win 10 games in a season - a feat finally accomplished last week when the Lions earned a dose of revenge by beating Olathe South in the Class 6A quarterfinals.

That LHS would no longer be an invincible force wasn't a total shock. After years of contentious bickering, Lawrence voters finally approved a bond issue in the spring of 1995 to build another high school across town, and once Free State opened its doors in 1997, it figured to have an impact on how LHS performed on the gridiron.

But 10 years without double-digit victories? From a program that spent the previous 10 years playing in each and every state title game?

"I would have never dreamt it. But obviously, when you split the level of talent on a squad, it's going to take a few years to rebuild," said Loudabarger, who went on to play college baseball at Kansas State and is now the director of events for the KU athletic department.

"I don't think they've been that far away. It's been a rebuilding of the mentality, more than anything ... believing they can win, more than anything else."

Whether this year's edition of the red and black fully restores the LHS glory remains to be seen. An undefeated Olathe East squad comes calling in tonight's semifinal showdown at Haskell Stadium, and should the Lions survive, there's still the matter of next week's title game in Topeka.

However, they've already gained the admiration of the last LHS team to advance this deep into the postseason.

"Without a doubt, this team is as close as it's been to the glory days," said Wedd, who also went the college baseball route at KU and is now the director of operations for Sluggers Baseball Academy in Kansas City. "The way they play the game, the way they represent Lawrence High is what reminds me of the teams we played on and that came before us.

"I think the response you'd get from almost all of (the 1995 team) is this is a Lawrence High team. That's the way you do it."


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