After knocking off previously undefeated Olathe East last Friday, Lawrence High football players earned pats on the back from fellow students Monday.
But the team was also dealt a shot to the gut.
Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd found out that junior wide receiver Anthony Buffalomeat will miss the rest of the season because of mononucleosis.
Wedd didn’t just need to find a receiver to replace Buffalomeat for today’s game at 7 p.m. against Shawnee Mission West at the Shawnee Mission South District Stadium. He also had to find a new starting cornerback and punter, positions that Buffalomeat also filled for the Lions (3-2).
“It’s a big loss,” Wedd said.
Junior Garrett Cleavinger will take Buffalomeat’s spot at wide receiver, sophomore Erick Mayo will start at cornerback, and sophomore Shane Willoughby will handle punting duties.
Also, senior offensive tackle Ben Pope broke his leg in the third quarter Friday and will miss the rest of the year. Wedd called Pope the “heart and soul” of the offensive line, a unit that holds the key to Lawrence’s success in Wedd’s eyes.
“We have to find a way to get four or five yards between the tackles,” Wedd said. “Sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t. We have to get more consistent with that.”
Junior running back Charles Jackson has come on strong in the last three games, picking up 302 yards and two touchdowns on 52 carries. But his fumbling issues haven’t disappeared: He lost one on the first play of the second half against Olathe East.
“They’re popping it out,” Jackson said. “It’s not going to come out this week. That’s a guarantee.”
Sophomore quarterback Brad Strauss has noticed Jackson’s emergence.
“He can make a big play every time he gets the ball,” Strauss said. “He’s just taking a lot of pressure off me.”
If Lawrence can win the turnover battle like it did last week, the pressure will be on Shawnee Mission West (4-1), a physical team that wears the opposition down with its running game. The Vikings came back from a 14-3 deficit against Olathe Northwest two weeks ago by gashing the Ravens between the tackles.
The Lions were able to watch film this week, but not having a full week to prepare for the Vikings had them playing catch up.
“It’s tough on them, and it’s awfully tough on us,” Wedd said.
Practices were longer Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to account for the missed time.
Strauss thinks the team can build off the momentum it built by defeating Olathe East.
“That was a big win for us last week, Strauss said. “We just have to play hard this week and try to get another big win.”