For the players and students, it’s going to be a fabulous night. Lawrence High football coaches are just trying to get through it.
“Homecoming is a coach’s worst nightmare,” LHS coach Dirk Wedd said.
Lawrence (3-2) will play host to Shawnee Mission South (1-5) at 7 tonight in its annual homecoming game, but there is a lot of baggage that goes with it.
The bonfire, the assembly, the parade and the dance itself are distractions Wedd doesn’t want to have looming over his team against an opponent with a deceiving record. And for the school’s sake, there is a lot of pressure for the Lions to win this game.
“I’ve never been to a homecoming dance or heard of one that was any good if the football team loses,” Wedd said.
Junior lineman Kharon Brown said he will not be distracted. He thinks the game will motivate the players while in the spotlight of what looks to be a raucous crowd.
“Now we know for sure everybody’s going to be here,” Brown said. “We have got to play good. That’s what we know.”
In terms of records, the Lions have the apparent advantage. But the Raiders’ record might be deceiving.
SMS beat Shawnee Mission Northwest last week for its first victory. While the Raiders are coming in with some confidence, they are also sporting a formidable ground game.
Running back Gabe Guild had a game last week that should frighten coaches around the league. Guild ran for 342 yards and three touchdowns on just 29 carries. It was one of the best individual Sunflower League performances of the decade, and Wedd is well aware he is the guy to stop.
“He’s going to get some yards just because he’s a good back,” Wedd said about Guild. “We can’t allow the other people to go off.”
Defensively, that’s going to be a bit of a challenge. Senior linebacker Jake Vinoverski might not play due to a separated shoulder he received in last week’s game against Shawnee Mission East, even though he has been cleared to play. Vinoverski has been the ultimate defensive playmaker for the Lions this season, practically spending most of his time in the opposing team’s backfield.
Senior DeCorey Pittman will start in Vinoverski’s place.
“He’s been waiting for it,” Brown said of Pittman’s opportunity to stary. “He deserves it. He’s been working hard all summer and all year. He’s going to get his chance.”
Even though senior center Brady Murrish is recovered from his leg injury, he will miss another start because he is not up to speed, Wedd said.
SMS hits the road after having played four consecutive games at home. Brown wants to make the road trip as uncomfortable as possible.
“We’re going to have to welcome them,” he said.