Shawnee Mission North 17, LHS 14
Shawnee Mission North 17, LHS 14
As far as losses go, this was about as good as they come.
Friday night, in front of an energetic, overflow crowd at Lawrence High’s new, on-campus football stadium, the Lions fell to Shawnee Mission North, 17-14, on a Kyle Goodburn field goal with 30 seconds to play.
The opening game at the new venue provided a taste of just about everything Lawrence High fans have been accustomed to seeing throughout the years. Except a victory, of course.
With the west bleachers filled to capacity and more than 250 fans standing behind the south end zone — another 25-50 spectators stood outside the fence along 19th Street — the Lions played tough defense, holding the SMN offense to 235 total yards and turning the Indians away on three separate goal-line stands.
The Lions also ran the ball and ran the ball and ran the ball. Then they ran the ball some more, finishing the night with 232 yards on 41 carries.
Lastly, the Lions turned in the kind of never-say-die performance that the ghosts of LHS past could not help but be proud of. Unfortunately for the home team, the consolation prize in this hard-fought season opener was walking away encouraged about the jumping off point of the 2009 season.
“I love the way this team played tonight,” said LHS coach Dirk Wedd. “They showed a lot of heart.”
The fact that the final kick — a 24-yarder that would’ve been good from 35 — was enough to hand the Lions the loss left many in the home locker room hanging their heads. The early assessment after the game, however, was that there was very little to be down about.
For much of the game it was the younger Lions who controlled the pace of play. Offensively, LHS stuck with what has worked for the last 100 years, giving the Indians a heavy dose of the ground game to build leads of 7-0 and 14-7.
Senior tailback Tyrae Jenkins carried 16 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns. Of that total, 136 yards and both TDs came in the first half, as Jenkins scored from 29 and 79 yards out to give the Lions a 14-7 lead at the break.
“He’s pretty special,” Wedd said. “He runs hard and he has a huge heart.”
Both of Jenkins’ touchdown runs came after multiple SM North defenders made contact but did not wrap him up, leaving the senior speedster all alone in the open field to rumble into the end zone.
“Coach always says, ‘Keep your feet moving,’” Jenkins said. “I just tried to do that and then used my speed to break away.”
The Lions themselves tried to break away from the Indians several times throughout the night. But every time LHS seemed to be on the verge of taking control, their youth and inexperience bit them in the behind.
LHS fumbled four times, losing three of them. To compound those miscues, LHS twice surrendered back-breaking touchdowns after two of the three giveaways. North scored its first TD from a yard out after a fumble set the Indians up with a first-and-goal at the one. The Indians’ second TD of the night came when Goodburn hit Brandon Currie with a 19-yard TD pass on third-and-14 with 8:59 to play.
“We gave them 14 points off turnovers and then a blocked punt set up the game-winning field goal,” Wedd said. “You can’t do that and expect to win. Entering the game, we had five guys who had ever played on Friday nights. This was the first time for a lot of those kids. And it showed at times. But I’ll tell you what, they played hard. That wasn’t the issue. They wanted to kick this thing off the right way and they’re disappointed that they didn’t get it done.”
Afterwards, the Lions’ leaders talked about their first experience under the bright lights they now call home.
“We came out and played hard the whole game and we never gave up,” said junior quarterback Chris Gaston, who shared snaps with senior Chase Billings. “Our defense really impressed me and even though we lost, there’s not a lot to feel bad about.”
Added junior linebacker Darrin Sorem: “I think we answered a lot of our question marks tonight.”
Ultimately, it’s not the score or the specifics of this historic first game that will be remembered. It’s that it happened. And for a group of LHS football players, who took the field wearing helmets decorated by decals bearing the initials “BF” in memory of the late Bob Frederick, being out there for the school’s first true home contest — win or lose — was quite a thrill.
“I was pretty pumped up before we started,” Billings said. “I think that’s the greatest atmosphere I’ve ever played in.”