It's not whether you win or lose, an old football adage goes, it's who gets the blame.
On Friday night, Lawrence High coach Dirk Wedd heaped a ton of mea culpa on his head after SM Northwest thumped the Lions, 41-18, at SM North District Stadium.
"It's hard for a football team to win if the coach doesn't get them ready," Wedd said, "and I didn't have them prepared."
Wedd was referring to three early incidents - an illegal-procedure penalty on the Lions' first offensive play, a flag for illegal substitution on their second possession and, worst of all, a 46-punt return for a touchdown the first time SM Northwest touched the ball.
"We were just poorly coached," Wedd continued. "We jump offsides, we have 12 players on the field : "
In the final analysis, though, Wedd was probably being too hard on himself. For instance, the Lions would be penalized only once more the rest of the night, and they never gave the ball to the Cougars via a turnover.
What they did do, however, was give SM Northwest (3-1) the ball time and again inside their own territory, primarily because they couldn't get their offense going until after the Cougars had a 41-3 lead and coach Aaron Barnett inserted his second stringers.
Twice, however, SM Northwest started drives - scoring drives, as it turned out - on the Lions' 38-yard-line after Wedd opted to go for a first down on fourth-and-short, and the Lions failed.
"I've done that a lot in the past," Wedd said about his surprising decisions not to punt in those situations. I tried to send a message to get us to play the right way."
Wedd also tried to surprise the Cougars with an onsides kick to open the second half. That didn't work, either, and once again SM Northwest made the Lions pay with a short-field TD drive.
Said Wedd: "I put quite a few of their points on the board myself by trying to send a message."
Lawrence High (2-2) went into this one without a full deck. Out with injuries were two of the Lions' best two-way players - defensive tackle-tight end Chebon Dawes (ankle) and running back-safety Jake Green (knee).
"Northwest is a good team," Wedd said, "but we're not shooting with all our bullets."
On the positive side, the Lions may have discovered some unexpected ammo. Reserve running back Tyrae Jenkins spearheaded two late scoring drives by rushing for 92 yards on 14 carries.
Jenkins, who had carried the ball just twice before Friday, entered with the Lions lagging 41-3 late in the third quarter.
"Coach told me I needed to step up in practice," Jenkins said, "and I've been thinking about playing all week since Jake got hurt, so I was shaking when I got out there. This is a lot tougher than junior varsity."
Jenkins, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound junior, didn't play last season.
"We found him in the weight room, and asked him to come out," Wedd said. "It's taken him three or four games to find what football is all about."
As for what Lawrence High football is all about, quarterback Clint Pinnick felt the Lions made that statement loud and clear with the two late TDs - both 9-yard passes from Pinnick, one to Clifton Sims and the other to Murphy Ray.
"We showed character, we didn't give up," Pinnick said. "We showed we'll fight to the end. When you lose two starters, it's always hard, but we had to play with what we had, and I wouldn't trade any of them."
Dawes and Green are expected to return soon, but a short week may prevent their return for Olathe North. That game will be next Thursday night at Haskell Stadium.