When it rains it pours on Lawrence High’s football team.
Not only have the Lions dropped their first two games, they’ve been bitten by the injury bug. Four regulars will be out when the Lions entertain Shawnee Mission Northwest tonight.
Kickoff will be 7 p.m. at the new, semi-complete LHS facility.
Injuries will prevent Jay Baker, Ben Muiller, Chase Billings and Ricky Bellinger — all seniors — from participating. Of the four, Baker and Muiller may leave the biggest gaps.
“They’re arguably our two best linemen,” coach Dick Wedd said. “Baker is a three-year starter and a second-team all-conference pick, and Muiller is a two-year starter.”
Both Baker and Muiller are two-way starters, too. Baker is a tight end-defensive tackle and Muiller is a center-linebacker. Billings has been starting at free safety, but has also seen duty at quarterback. Bellinger is a special teams regular.
The good news is that none of the four appears to have a season-ending injury.
Still, losing those four for tonight’s game only throws more inexperienced players into a mix that lacked seasoned players in the first place.
On top of that, as end-linebacker Taylor Coleman, one of the few seniors still healthy, said of SM Northwest: “They’re better than what we faced the first two weeks.”
Based on a common opponent, Coleman’s assessment is sound. Both the Lions and Cougars have faced SM South. SM Northwest won, 23-15, in its season opener while Lawrence bowed to the Raiders, 28-7, last week in Overland Park.
“They beat South handily,” Wedd said of the Cougars. “That score isn’t indicative of how it went. South scored on a pass interception just before halftime, and late in the game.”
In its meeting with SM South, Lawrence bolted to a 7-0 lead after the first quarter, then managed only three first downs the rest of the way and never even threatened to score again.
“That tells you,” Wedd said, “that we’re going to have our hands full.”
On a more positive note, the Lions were solid against SM North when they made their debut in the new stadium three games ago, bowing 17-14 to the Indians.
At the same time, both of the Lions’ previous games have shown a pattern of starting fast, but then running out of steam.
“We really want to start finishing games,” Coleman said. “It takes all 48 minutes.”
The Lions will also be home next week against SM East.