The Shawnee Mission Northwest football team lost its first three games of the season. But Lawrence High coach Dirk Wedd isn’t fooled.
LHS at SMNW
When: 7 tonight
Where: Shawnee Mission South District Stadium
Records: Lawrence High 2-1; SM Northwest 0-3.
“They’re probably the best 0-3 football team in the state of Kansas,” Wedd said.
Lawrence (2-1) heads to the Shawnee Mission South District Stadium in Overland Park to take on Northwest (0-3) at 7 tonight.
In the Sunflower League preseason poll voted on by the coaches, the Cougars were picked to finish tied for fourth in the 12-team league.
Wedd said the last thing the Cougars want is to start the season with four consecutive losses.
“They’ll come out with bees in their bottom,” Wedd said.
The game is also the first of a four-game Sunflower League gauntlet for Lawrence. Next week, the Lions play at home against Olathe East, picked second in the preseason poll. Then they go on the road to take on Shawnee Mission West, picked third in the poll. The next week, on Oct. 15, LHS returns home to play Olathe North, the reigning 6A state champions and preseason favorites to win the league title.
If you weren’t counting, that’s the preseason top four teams in four consecutive weeks. Wedd said the league is the best in the state of Kansas from top to bottom.
“I think when it’s all said and done at the end of the season, those four teams will probably be right up there,” Wedd said.
Wedd opted not to rank his team among the preseason favorites, but did note that he thinks his team has improved with every game.
“If we improve this week, we’ve got a shot,” Wedd said. “We have to play our best football game so far this season to win. They’re that good.”
The Lions have already doubled their win total from 2009. Senior wide receiver/linebacker Chris Gaston said he’s heard people talking and expects a sizable contingent to make the drive down K-10 tonight.
“It helps a lot when you’ve got a school behind you,” Gaston said.
Senior lineman Ben Seybert said more people have confidence in this year’s team.
“We really feel like we have a good reason to play this year,” Seybert said. “We’ve got a lot of people backing us up.”
The defense will have a couple new faces after senior linebacker Jonathan Pederson dislocated his collarbone in practice Wednesday. He will likely miss the rest of the season. Wedd said sophomore Asaph Jewsome and senior Clarke Cunningham will play at linebacker tonight.
Gaston said that Northwest likes to run the ball a great deal, which matches well with Lawrence’s defensive strength: shutting down the run. Shawnee Mission South picked up just three yards on the ground last Friday.
Northwest tight end/defensive end Drew Goodger, 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, also presents a defensive challenge.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to shrink up the field on him,” Wedd said.
Gaston, who will match up with Goodger often from the linebacker position, is eager to show that this year’s Lawrence Lions aren’t a fluke.
“We’ll show them we’re for real,” Gaston said.