Lions’ offense disappears in loss to Raiders

Lawrence High’s Tyrae Jenkins stiff-arms a Shawnee Mission South defender. LHS lost, 28-7, Thursday at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium.

Nobody named Houdini was wearing a Shawnee Mission South football uniform, yet Lawrence High’s offense virtually disappeared.

The Raiders shut the Lions down in the last three quarters and posted a 28-7 victory Thursday night at SM South District Stadium.

In the first quarter, the Lions accumulated 103 yards, six first downs and a touchdown to snatch a 7-0 lead. But in the last three quarters, Lawrence managed just 27 yards, two first downs and didn’t come close to scoring.

Where did the offense go?

“We’re pretty limited in what we can do,” Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd said. “We can do two or three things well, and when they take those away, we struggle.”

Specifically, SM South shut down the up-the-middle bursts by fullback Darrin Sorem and off-tackle slants by Tyrae Jenkins.

On the Lions’ first play, Sorem blasted up the middle on a 34-yard run. Later, during the Lions’ second-possession scoring drive, Sorem contributed a 21-yard gallop. Those would be, however, the Lions’ longest gainers of the night.

Sorem, a junior who also plays linebacker, wound up as the Lions’ leading rusher with 58 yards on just five carries. Jenkins, who ran for 171 yards on 16 carries in last week’s season-opening 17-14 loss to SM North, carried 15 times Thursday night, but gained only 50 yards.

“We probably didn’t block correctly on any play during the second half,” Wedd said, “and that’s my fault. We’ll get that straightened out.”

While the Lions were dominating the first quarter, the Raiders made only one first down. They punted on their first two possessions. However, the third time SM South had the ball, the Raiders mounted a time-consuming 77-yard, 13-play drive to forge a 7-7 halftime deadlock.

“They wore us down,” Wedd said. “We have to keep our defense off the field.”

Mostly, SM South just pounded the ball right at the Lions’ defenders.

“We were getting tired, I guess,” Sorem said. “We just need to run more in practice. We’ve got to get better and play two halves.”

The Raiders blew it open after the break, thanks to a pair of gift touchdowns.

Quarterback Chris Gaston mishandled a center snap deep in the Lions’ territory, and the Raiders recovered at the 13. On the next play, quarterback Grant Hilton rambled into the end zone.

The next time the Lions had the ball, they were on their own 35 facing a fourth-and-one situation. Wedd called time and opted to go for it to try to regain some momentum — a tactic that had worked in the first quarter when Gaston scrambled for a first down.

But this time, Jenkins was stuffed for a yard loss, and the Raiders took over on the Lions’ 34, scoring eight plays later on another Hilton run — one of his three TDs — for a 21-7 lead.

“That fumble and not picking it up on fourth down hurt,” Wedd said.

Off to an 0-2 start against two teams expected to finish in the Sunflower League’s second division, the Lions’ task won’t become any easier Friday when they play host to perennially strong SM Northwest.

“We’ll come back and put this behind us,” said Gaston, who played QB the first three quarters before giving way to Chase Billings.

Added Sorem: “Every loss is a setback, but, like Chris said, we have to put this behind us.”

Still, it was clear the Lions have little margin for error.

“We have to play A-letter perfect in order to compete,” Wedd said.