Topeka — Topeka High didn't need any more setbacks.
The Trojan football squad would have had its hands full with Lawrence High no matter the circumstances.
But when numerous players failed to show up to first-year coach Shane Burns' practice this week, a roster of 48 was cut to 24 for the final game of the season.
LHS made Topeka High pay, scoring 48 first-half points in a 57-3 rout Friday at Hummer Sports Park.
The Lions clinched the district title with a perfect 3-0 mark.
"Our guys took care of business," LHS coach Dirk Wedd said. "The seniors did a good job so our other guys could have some fun later."
The eighth victory for Lawrence was a cause for celebration, as the Lions finished the regular season with only one loss. Since the playoff system began, 10 LHS teams have gone 8-1 in a season. Seven have won the state title.
"Seven-and-two wasn't going to cut it," running back Richard Demby said. "We had to come here and get this win."
LHS showed all its tricks early - including the seldom-used passing game.
On the Lions' second drive, quarterback Brian Heere found Demby behind the defense for a 59-yard touchdown pass and a 13-0 lead.
Heere again found Demby on the next scoring drive, completing a fade to the back corner of the end zone to give LHS a three-touchdown advantage.
"They say we can't throw the ball, and I like it when we throw it and make the plays," Demby said. "Other people ... it scares them even more. It's like we have little hidden tricks."
Tom Willoughby, Tony Williams and Tyler Hunt added first-half touchdown runs, and Nathan Padia returned an interception for a score as Lawrence took a 48-3 halftime lead.
Things remained ugly for Topeka High in the second half. Quarterback D.J. Marks, pressed into duty as a freshman not even on the varsity roster, finished with as many interceptions (2) as completions. The Trojans ended with just 93 total yards of offense.
And, after a change in possession with a minute left in the fourth quarter, the clock continued to run, perhaps so the game could end sooner.
Hunt added a two-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and Chris Cates connected on a 27-yard field goal to round out the scoring.
The Lions huddled at midfield to accept the district championship trophy. Free State took the title last season.
"I'm kind of excited about winning district," Demby said, "but really, for us, we really want that state championship."
LHS will attempt to return to Hummer Sports Complex for the 6A state championship in late November.
"We've got a legitimate shot at it," Wedd said. "It's pretty special to be 8-1."
LHS finished with 281 yards on 46 carries. Williams, Willoughby, Hunt, Nolan Kellerman and Matt Stiles each finished with over 40 yards rushing.
With the district title, the Lions are assured of playing host to a playoff game this week.
"We can take it back home at Haskell Stadium under our lights," Demby said. "From there, we're not going to be very nice. We're just going to go straight down the line and play football, and hopefully win a state championship in four weeks."