Starting over never sounded so good.
After going winless in the first six games of the regular season, the Lawrence High football team — along with every other high school team in the state — received a clean slate this week with the arrival of district play.
Gone are the painful memories of the close calls and complete mismatches. In their place is the blissful thought that a couple of victories in the next few weeks lead to postseason play.
“That’s going to help us a lot mentally,” LHS junior Darrin Sorem said after last week’s 31-0 loss at Shawnee Mission West. “The next three weeks are what matters, and we’re going to keep fighting.”
The Lions (0-6) will travel to College Boulevard Activity Center at 7 tonight to take on an Olathe Northwest (2-4) team that began the season with a bang. With their 29-7 victory against SM East in the opener, the Ravens sat above .500 for the first time in school history. The good times were short-lived, however, as the Ravens dropped their next two games and have lost four of their last five entering tonight’s contest.
Despite that fact, Northwest has garnered plenty of attention from LHS coach Dirk Wedd for its hard-hitting style of play.
“They’re a good football team,” Wedd said. “They’re so physical, and we’re going to have to be ready to try to match that.”
Although the losses have begun to pile up, the Ravens have been competitive in every game except one. In Week 5, ONW lost to Olathe East, 7-0. A few weeks earlier, the Ravens lost to Olathe South, 24-17, after holding a 14-point lead.
Sound familiar? The Lions also led Olathe South by two scores in a 26-23 loss in Week 5. Not being able to bury their opponents has been a major problem for the youthful Lions this fall.
“We’ve had a couple of opportunities to play well in the second half and finish a game off, and we haven’t done that,” Wedd said. “At this point, with as many snaps as these guys have had now, it’s time for our sophomores to become juniors and our juniors to become seniors and our seniors to keep fighting.”
That won’t be a problem, according to senior tailback Tyrae Jenkins, who enters tonight’s game in fourth place in the Sunflower League in rushing with 556 yards.
“We’re still looking for that first victory,” Jenkins said. “We’re hungry. But at the same time, we know Olathe Northwest is going to bring it, too, because they didn’t make the playoffs last year. Right now, all that matters is finding a way to make it to the playoffs. Two wins, three wins, whatever it takes to get us another week of football is what we want to do.”
Encouraged by the fresh start, Wedd said he sensed a different feel in his team throughout practice this week.
“The kids have had a little more bounce,” he said. “And I think that’s because they see an opportunity to salvage the season.”
LHS is expected to have senior Taylor Coleman back in the lineup tonight. Coleman, a tight end and linebacker, missed Week 6 due to an injury.
District play will run for the next three weeks, with the top two teams in Class 6A’s District 4 — LHS, Free State, Olathe Northwest and Leavenworth — advancing to the postseason.