Eleven days ago, Lawrence High senior lineman Jamal Brown had his knee drained. Afterward, he got to see the 20 milliliters of purple fluid that came from the knee.
Even then, Brown said he knew he was going to somehow make it back for district play.
Coaches and players alike are excited for Brown’s reappearance for today’s 7 p.m. game against Olathe Northwest at the College Boulevard Activities Center in Olathe. After losing their first game of district play against Olathe North on Friday, the Lions (3-4) need to end their season with two victories to make the playoffs.
Brown is eager to get back on the field, especially after watching the offense fail to score on three plays from Olathe North’s one-yard line in the first quarter. Seniors Chris Gaston and Darrin Sorem both ran straight ahead for no gain before a false-start penalty made coach Dirk Wedd opt to kick a short field goal.
“That’s usually my play where we score. Period,” Brown said.
Wedd said Brown will be back only on a limited basis, meaning he likely will play only on one side of the ball. But by the way Brown was gushing before practice Thursday about the opportunity to play right tackle again, it’s seems like that’s where he will play.
Senior Ben Seybert, who plays right guard next to Brown, said it’ll be nice to have the 340-pound Brown back at his side. Seybert said last week he often had to tell junior fill-in Wyatt Woods where to block.
“I don’t even play tackle, and I had to tell him,” Seybert said. “’Go right or go left, you have that guy,’ that kind of stuff.”
The offensive line hasn’t avoided the injury problems the rest of the team is facing. Last week, Wedd sent out four offensive lineman who weren’t starters to begin the season.
“Obviously we didn’t play well,” Wedd said. “It’s probably the toughest position to play when ideally you want to have all five guys together the whole season. There’s a lot of communication involved. There’s a lot of double-teams and teamwork involved.”
The injuries have forced a change in Lawrence’s offensive strategy. Wedd said he has to move sophomore quarterback Brad Strauss out of the pocket more to counter the lack of protection.
“He’s very elusive, but he’s best when he’s setting up and has time to throw,” Wedd said.
Olathe Northwest (2-5) lost to Free State, 35-21, Friday, but Wedd was impressed with the Ravens’ new Wildcat-type offense. Former running back Leonard Parks often takes the shotgun snap and takes off around the tackles.
Brown and Seybert said Olathe-area newspapers’ picking against the Lions motivated the team.
“They pretty much have us losing every week,” Seybert said.