Dirk Wedd sees no reason to bring up the difficult 1-8 season Lawrence High’s football team endured last year when talking to his team.
“They lived it just like I did,” Wedd said. “They don’t need it to be brought up to have it in their hearts. Every day we walk out there, we realize this school has huge expectations. In fact, we embarrassed our school with that type of season. That’s not what this school is used to.”
Wedd realizes turning around the fortunes of the Lions won’t happen overnight.
“We have a big hill to climb, starting at the bottom,” said Wedd, Lawrence High’s coach since 1999.
That quest begins at 7 tonight in the season opener, when the Lions take on Leavenworth at Lawrence High.
Coincidentally, the last time the Lions took the field, they held off Leavenworth, 13-6, in the final game for their only victory of the season.
Starting with a victory could do wonders for the Lions’ confidence in 2010.
“This is a big football game for us,” Wedd said. “Any time you have a young team — we’re going to start quite a few juniors and three or four sophomores — it’s important for them to get the jitters out early. Since Day 1 last winter, to summer weights, to all the two-a-days, all we’ve talked about is Leavenworth and how it’s important to be 1-0 at 10 o’clock (tonight).”
Wedd made the decision in the offseason to start Bradley Strauss at quarterback. It’s the first time a sophomore has started under center in the Wedd era.
Strauss beat out last year’s quarterback, Chris Gaston, a senior who will move to wide receiver this season. Wedd said Strauss earned the opportunity.
“He has great feet and is probably one of the two to three fastest guys on the team,” Wedd said. “If we can get him into the secondary, he can go the distance. Throwing the football, he doesn’t have a tremendous gun, but he’s accurate. He knows the pocket, doesn’t panic, doesn’t have happy feet, reads coverages and gets it to the right people.”
Working in the favor of LHS is how well Gaston took the news that he wouldn’t be playing quarterback.
“Honestly, he’s naturally a better passer than I am,” Gaston admitted about Strauss. “I’m not going to lie about that. He’s a really good natural athlete, and I give him props for everything he’s done so far.”
Still, Gaston figures to see plenty of the field as a receiver on offense and a safety on defense.
“Chris is a team person,” Wedd said. “He was disappointed. Any kid is going to be disappointed when you tell him he’s moving from quarterback to wide receiver. He’s team-first, and that’s the way he’s been brought up by his mom and dad. He didn’t pout or sulk. He took it the way a good leader would.”
Gaston will be joined in a receiving corps that includes senior Austin Flory and juniors Anthony Buffalomeat, Jake Vinoverski and Garrett Cleavinger.
The real question on offense: Who will start at running back?
Junior Charles Jackson has impressed the coaching staff and “has shown flashes of being a special kid,” according to Wedd. Jackson will compete against sophomores Asaph Jewsome, Jordan Brown and Tyrone Jenkins.
Defensively, Wedd called junior linebacker Darrin Sorem, a second-team all-league selection last year, the heart and soul of the unit.
Senior Jamal Brown figures to lead the defensive line, while Gaston and Strauss will patrol the secondary.
“I think we need to be realistic,” Wedd said. “We’re not going to turn this around in a short period of time. It will take some time. The only thing we’ve talked about is winning the first football game. We want to get off to a good start.”