The roughest stretch of the season might be over, but Lawrence High’s football team isn’t about to go soft.
Not after everything the team has learned about becoming a winning football team.
“We don’t really want to put anything on cruise control,” senior Jake Vinoverski said.
A battle-tested Lawrence High (1-2) will visit Leavenworth High School (0-3) at its homecoming at 7 tonight and will try to apply the lessons of defeat against yet another road foe.
This is the third consecutive game away from Lawrence, but coach Dirk Wedd said that hasn’t been the worst part of the schedule.
“I think the bigger toll is the three teams that we played,” he said.
Contrary to what the record suggests, the Lions are on the rise in terms of competing with the elite teams in the Sunflower League. After LHS started the season against Shawnee Mission West, Olathe South and Olathe East, it knows how to contend with the big teams and what errors it needs to correct.
Vinoverski said it was better this way, rather than playing soft games at the beginning, only to be surprised and knocked around late in the season.
“Since we got punched for the first few games, it really got us hard-headed,” he said.
Though tonight’s match-up heavily favors the Lions, Wedd has seen footage on the Pioneers and said no one on the LHS sideline will take the game lightly.
“In this league, I don’t think you can afford to look by anybody,” Wedd said. “All you’ve got to do is turn on the tape of the Free State and Leavenworth game and know they’re very capable of winning a football game.”
FSHS won the game 23-12, but in Leavenworth’s three games, Wedd said he has seen a talented defense that has been strong against the run. Right now, the Pioneers are second in the league in that category.
On the surface, that statistic doesn’t seem like a problem for LHS, considering junior quarterback Brad Strauss’ ability to carry the team by throwing the ball. But for the past two games, the Lions have failed to establish the type of balanced offense they have wanted.
Ideally, Wedd said, the team wants to get senior running back Charles Jackson 100 yards rushing. It’s not about the quantity of rushes, but the quality. LHS wants a 50-50 split in throwing and passing, and the yards-per-carry need to increase for that to happen.
“We don’t run the ball a lot,” Wedd said, “but we have to run it better than what we’re doing.”
Statistically, Leavenworth is similar to what LHS has been. The Pioneers throw in the spread offense 68 percent of the time versus 32 percent in running formation. That’s a drastic change from the first three games for the Lions, when they played teams that could get by with five passing attempts for the entire game.
The defensive approach will have to be different and it is an opportunity to get sacks, Vinoverski said.
Since the Lions run the same type of offense, the defense will basically be playing against what it regularly sees from the practice squad.
“Thank goodness during two-a-days and the early season our defense defended us,” Wedd said about the spread offense. “That’s what we are.”