Olathe As the Lawrence High football team boarded the buses and left the Olathe District Activity Center Friday night, it saw plenty of points still on the field.
In the first quarter, the Olathe East punt that bounced off a Lawrence player and gave the ball back to the Hawks. The third-and-goal at the one-yard line and the turnover on downs that came two plays later. The missed game-winning two-point conversion after senior quarterback Brad Strauss led an 82-yard scoring drive with less than 1:30 in the game.
The game was there for the taking, but even as well as the Lions (1-2) played, they watched the Hawks (2-1) walk away with a 21-20 victory.
“We leave way too many points out,” Strauss said. “We were knocking on their doorstep a few times, and we couldn’t punch it in. We have to score in those situations, and it cost us a game.”
Both teams scored touchdowns on their opening drives, but a Lion turnover on the Hawks’ first punt led their second touchdown. Lawrence had the ball two more times in the first half and couldn’t get points out of either of possession. By halftime, East had mounted a 21-7 lead.
The Hawks relied heavily on the run, similar to the Lions’ previous opponents, so it should have been a run-out-the-clock game from then on. But the LHS defense didn’t let the run dictate the game, and East didn’t score the rest of the game, which was a bright spot, coach Dirk Wedd said.
The Lions scored late in the third when Strauss hit receiver Anthony Buffalomeat for a touchdown, bringing the deficit to seven points. LHS held East at bay while it moved to the one-yard line on third down. The Lions ran it twice with running back Charles Jackson, and twice he failed to get anything.
“You wouldn’t believe how frustrating it is,” Jackson said. “But you’ve got to move past it. It’s still early.”
The failure to convert opportunities close to the goal line is what has plagued the Lions this season. There weren’t any red zone interceptions this game, but there is still more to fix.
“It’s been a struggle,” Wedd said. “We’re a third of the way through the season and it’s something that we have to address in practice.”
The Lions weren’t done. They had just stopped the Hawks on a fourth-and-three after they passed up an easy field goal, one that would have sealed the game. With the ball at their own 18 and down seven with 1:20 to go, the Lions looked to Strauss to orchestrate one final drive. He ran for 47 yards on the drive, passed for 35 and capped it off with a 15-yard touchdown.
But instead of kicking a point after to send the game into overtime, Wedd called for a two-point conversion to win the game in regulation.
“We had the momentum and I really didn’t want to get into a smash-mouth overtime game,” he said.
Strauss was flushed out of the pocket on the conversion attempt and threw incomplete. LHS was on the losing end of a thriller.
After the game, Strauss said the Lions were close to becoming a good team. After facing three of the tougher Sunflower League teams to start the season, the Lions know what they are capable of; they just haven’t quite reached it.
“We just didn’t execute good enough when it mattered,” Strauss said.