Lawrence High's football postseason rides on tonight's game against Topeka High.
"If you lose, you go home," Lions' coach Dirk Wedd said. "And we'll be checking in the equipment on Monday. So our kids need to realize there's an urgency. There's no more tomorrow."
The Lions (4-4) must defeat the Trojans (2-6) in order to earn a berth in the Class 6A state playoffs.
Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. at Haskell Stadium. Sunflower Broadband Channel 6 will have a delayed telecast at 10:30 p.m.
That task may not seem arduous. Lawrence has defeated Topeka High 57-3 and 57-0 the last two years. But Wedd points out Topeka scored 27 points against Free State and blanked Washburn Rural, 17-0.
"We couldn't shut (Rural) out," Wedd said. "We didn't score 27 points against Free State."
Despite its losing record, Topeka features a strong running game. Dorian Branch ranks second in the Capital City with 718 rushing yards.
Lawrence also must bounce back from last Friday's emotion-filled loss to crosstown rival Free State. The Firebirds won, 49-15 - the largest margin in the rivalry's history.
The Lions remain confident about moving on.
"It's in the past," senior lineman Paul Finch said. "We're going to win because that's what we need to do."
LHS probable starters
OFFENSE TE-Nick DeBiasse, 6-2, 235, Sr. LT-Jake Lorenzo, 6-1, 280, Sr. LG-Kyle McTaggart, 5-9, 225, Sr. C-Shawn Jimboy, 6-1, 230, Sr. RG-Paul Finch, 5-10, 240, Sr. RT-Phillip Wahwahsuck, 6-0, 260, Sr. TE-Quintin Rucker, 6-0, 240, Jr. QB-Chance Riley, 6-5, 205, Sr. TB-Tony Williams, 6-0, 200, Sr. FB-Clifton Sims, 5-5, 165, Soph. WR-Nathan Padia, 6-3, 175, Sr. K-Abby Vestal, 5-9, 160, Sr.
DEFENSE LE-Rucker. LT-Patrick Johnson, 5-10, 230, Sr. NG-Finch. RT-Richard Demby, 5-10, 165, Sr. RE-Williams. LB-Tyler Hunt, 6-2, 210, Jr. LB-DeBiasse. SS-Malcolm Sims, 5-10, 185, Jr. CB-Padia. CB-Aresenio Criss, 5-10, 165, Sr. FS-Jared Vinoverski, 6-2, 175, Jr. P-Hunt.
Indeed, Wedd said the team had practiced well all week and expected the Lions to treat the Free State game as ancient history.
"The kids are freakin' 17 years old," Wedd said. "They're resilient."
If the Lions don't advance, tonight's game will be the last for this group of seniors.
"We want to give them a good show because it could be our last time," senior quarterback Chance Riley said. "But hopefully we'll get another chance to get back at Haskell."
In order to involve the crowd, Riley said the Lions must jump on Topeka early.
"We've got to take it out of them in the first couple of series," Riley said. "And hopefully put them away."
Injuries have battered the Lions' offensive line all season, but Wedd expects two of his best - tackle Jake Lorenzo and center Shawn Jimboy, both seniors - to return after sitting out the Free State contest.
The Lions appear to have a team made for November with a strong running game led by senior Tony Williams, who ranks second on the Sunflower League rushing chart. Williams needs 43 yards to reach the 1,000-yard plateau.
"We've done a pretty good job in the playoffs," Wedd said. "We'd make some noise."
But they must take care of business tonight.
"The playoffs start for us this week," Riley said.