It's been dubbed the second season; a fresh start when every high school football team in the state returns to 0-0 in October. It's district play, and with six games gone by, the 2-4 Lawrence High Lions couldn't be happier about wiping their slate clean and abandoning the Sunflower League standings.
All that matters now are the three games during districts that lie ahead which determine who moves on to sub-state and who doesn't.
"We could be playing the Green Bay Packers, and it would be a must-win," LHS head coach Dirk Wedd said. "When you get in the district playoffs, you've got to win, or they start telling you that you have to go home."
That new season begins tonight against Washburn Rural as some familiar faces finally return to the LHS lineup.
Both quarterback Clint Pinnick and fullback Clifton Sims are expected to see action after missing games with ankle injuries. Pinnick, who went down with a hairline fracture, is coming back after being sidelined for only three weeks. According to Wedd, doctors told Pinnick he could have been out for up to six weeks.
Pinnick said he hoped to be back in time for districts when he received the diagnosis, and it has worked out so far.
"From when I got injured, I thought I was going to be back the next week," he said. "After I heard it was a break, I was shooting for this game right here. Because this was a game when I knew we needed to start winning."
Pinnick has completed 25 of 49 passes for 427 yards and four touchdowns in a little more than three games.
Sims and senior running back Tyler Hunt have rushed for nearly 900 yards, and the Lions will be looking to pound Washburn Rural into submission early.
Jared Vinoverski also has played a key role on the offensive side for LHS at wide receiver. Vinoverski has 385 yards receiving, three touchdowns, and a nearly 28-yard-per-catch average. Offensively, Lawrence tallied over 19 points a game in Sunflower League play.
The Junior Blues, meanwhile, are 1-5 this season and are averaging just seven points per game. That includes three shutout losses, with the last one coming a week ago in an 8-0 loss to Topeka Hayden. LHS defeated the Junior Blues last season, 31-7.
Wedd is counting on his team to pick up the play when it matters most.
"This is when we usually play our best football," Wedd said. "You know, they better understand there is some urgency. They've seen a lot of our teams have a lot of success in the playoffs in the last three years. So, they should get the message."
Sims and Pinnick are happy simply to be suited up again and ready to go whenever Wedd calls their names.
"Now that I'm back, I'm more excited to play," Sims said. "Without playing, you don't take things for granted."
"Now that we're starting 0-0 again, I hope we can help the team out a lot," Pinnick said. "I'm just glad to be back, and I'm glad to have Clifton back."