Lawrence High (3-2) has reeled off three football victories in a row, but now the Lions face perhaps their stiffest test of the season when they play Shawnee Mission West (5-0) tonight at Shawnee Mission North District Stadium.
Kickoff is 7 p.m.
"You kind of circle it on the calendar," senior tight end/linebacker Nick DeBiasse said. "It's definitely a statement game for us. We can really come out and make a name for ourselves."
West features the Sunflower League's highest-scoring offense, which averages 40.4 points. Running back J.D. Steffen churns out 8.1 rushing yards per carry behind a mammoth offensive line, and quarterback Blake Lawrence likely will play Div. I football next year.
"Blake is pretty special," LHS coach Dirk Wedd said. "KU and Nebraska haven't offered him scholarships because he's a nice kid."
The Lions plan to make West's star quarterback work for his yardage.
"We've got to lay some hits on him," DeBiasse said. "And make him know that we don't care what his accolades are. We still play Lawrence High football."
The most effective defense, however, could be a good offense. The Lions plan to run the ball to run off the clock and keep West off the field.
"The only way I know how to do that is by controlling the football," Wedd said. "The pressure's on the offense."
Running back Tony Williams, who has rushed for 636 yards on 98 carries, will receive the bulk of the carries. He welcomes the workload.
"I love it," Wiliams said. "I can't wait to play these guys."
Williams rushed for 140 yards on 30 carries Friday against Shawnee Mission East despite a bad ankle, which made him a game-time decision prior to that game. But Williams said his ankle was approaching 100 percent.
"It's almost there," he said. "It's a lot better this week."
Williams, who will be taped heavily and plans to wear ankle braces, likely will play on offense, defense and special teams. His only reduction will be at punter, where junior Tyler Hunt will handle the duties.
Williams faces a defense ranked No. 1 in points and yardage allowed. It reminds Wedd of the unit he coached in 2005, which led LHS to a 10-2 record.
"They've got 11 guys who will run and hit you," Wedd said. "They're not the biggest group of kids in the world, but they've got great team speed, and they run to the ball really well."
Playing Thursday instead of the usual Friday gave both teams less time to ready themselves. To compensate, Wedd practiced his team Sunday, which is normally a day off. The Lions also worked 30 minutes longer Wednesday.
With that extra preparation, LHS will take on the No.1-ranked team in the preseason Sunflower League coaches' poll.
"It's a good test for us going into district," Williams said, " to play one of the best teams in Kansas and know where we stand."