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High School Sports

High School Sports

LHS: ‘We probably need to play a perfect game’

Lawrence High runner Tyrae Jenkins finds some open field during the first half of LHS' homecoming night loss.

Lawrence High runner Tyrae Jenkins finds some open field during the first half of LHS' homecoming night loss.

October 23, 2009

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Lawrence high schools to grapple on gridiron

The Firebirds and Lions will meet Friday to see who continues their run into the post-season. The Lions enter the contest without a regular-season victory. Enlarge video

Lawrence High’s football players know that the field will be slanted against them today when they travel to Free State High for the 7 p.m. kickoff of this year’s City Showdown.

The Lions know the Firebirds have the edge in just about every area that matters — size, speed, experience and confidence, to name a few. So instead of dwelling on that, they’ve decided to focus on the little things that might not seem to mean much but could make a world of difference.

The Lions have worked as hard as ever in practice and in the film room, looking for ways to exploit any weaknesses the Firebirds might have, however small they may be.

They’ve heard speeches from former players, been spoken to by legendary LHS coach Dick Purdy — who’s in town for a visit — and even have spent time studying the history of the rivalry, which dates back to 1997 and has yielded six wins for each side heading into tonight’s game.

Even after all of that, Wedd said the winning equation was simple to decipher.

“We probably need to play over our heads a little bit, and they need to look past us,” LHS coach Dirk Wedd said. “We probably need to play a perfect game to beat them. I know we’re capable of that. We’ve shown instances of being a pretty good football team. But we haven’t put four quarters together yet. Maybe (tonight) will be the night.”

Lawrence High’s hopes of taking the season to the playoffs are tied to delivering its best showing of the season tonight. The Lions (0-7) know they must win their final two games to have a shot at the postseason. For now, though, dreams of playing during the first week of November can wait. After all, when it’s City Showdown week, just about everything that isn’t football-related gets put on hold.

“It’s a big deal, and to go up against them is always fun,” LHS senior Taylor Coleman said of playing the Firebirds. “We see each other in other sports, outside of sports and outside of school. There’s obviously bragging rights on the line. Regardless of whether you make a big play or not, if your team wins, you get ’em for the whole year.”

Like they’ve done all season, the Lions will look to control the ball on offense with a crisp, time-consuming ground attack. Senior tailback Tyrae Jenkins is fifth in the Sunflower League in rushing this season with 664 yards, and LHS has a stable of other runners — Corey Kincheloe, Darrin Sorem, Chris Gaston, Scott Dunlap and Joel Yates — who are capable of carrying the football.

On the other side of the ball, the Lions plan to play sound defense with an emphasis on limiting the production of Free State QB Camren Torneden.

“Obviously, Camren is pretty special,” Wedd said. “He makes a lot of things happen. Things don’t have to go exactly perfect for him to make a big play. He’s always the first thing you worry about, and since he’s got the ball in his hands every snap, it’s definitely something you’re concerned with.”

One way the LHS defense hopes to limit Torneden’s effectiveness is to get off the field on third down. Another is by borrowing a page from last year’s playbook, when the Lions forced the Free State signal-caller into a pair of turnovers in a 21-13 Free State victory.

Regardless of what has happened in the past or, perhaps, even what people are expecting will happen in the future, the Lions plan to take the field with a great deal of faith and confidence.

“I’ve seen a lot of these games, and I’ve heard about all of them, so I know what could happen or what should happen,” Coleman said. “But just knowing the fact that we’re going against the odds makes us look forward to it even more. We just absorb everything during the week and then let it all out on Friday night.”

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