Playing so many sophomores two years ago is about to pay off for coach Dirk Wedd’s Lawrence High football team.
The Lions’ biggest strength on their depth chart entering Friday’s season opener against Shawnee Mission West is a core group of seniors with two seasons worth of varsity experience.
Leading that bunch is senior quarterback Brad Strauss, who threw for 1,555 yards and rushed for 754 more to gain All-Sunflower League first-team status in 2011. Protecting Strauss as starting linemen will be three seniors — left guard Jacob Warren, right guard Kharon Brown and right tackle Chris Gillespie — and juniors left tackle Alex Jones and center Kyle Wittman.
In the backfield, LHS has senior running back Tyrone Jenkins. Out wide, seniors Erick Mayo, Drake Hofer, Will Thompson and Josh Seybert lead the receiving corps.
Lawrence’s starting defensive line will be comprised of senior nose guard Cole Cummins, senior lineman Seybert and Brown, an all-league first-teamer as a junior.
At linebacker, LHS will have seniors Jordan Brown and Asaph Jewsome and juniors Drew Green and Kieran Severa at its disposal.
In the secondary, free safety Strauss picked up first-team all-league defensive honors a year ago, and will be helped by corners Mayo and Thompson, as well as junior strong safety Tucker Sutter.
Members of the LHS secondary also will play a significant role on special teams, with Strauss punting and Severa kicking. Mayo and Strauss will return punts and Hofer will join Mayo for kickoff return duties.
Firebirds' defense filled with veterans
With Friday night’s season opener at Olathe Northwest getting closer by the minute, Free State High football coach Bob Lisher is starting to feel better about his team’s depth chart.
Though Lisher expects some fluctuation to come as the Firebirds search for the right combination of players during the first few weeks, the FSHS staff has to be confident in its defense, which returns eight players who either started last season or played half the snaps in a game.
On the defensive line, Free State will start senior Cody Stanclift, an All-Sunflower League first-teamer last year, and junior Fred Wyatt as ends, and senior Riley Buller at nose tackle.
The Firebirds have a long list of starting linebackers: juniors Stan Skwarlo, Keith Loneker and Blake Winslow, and seniors Corban Schmidt and Tye Hughes.
Free State boasts a strong secondary, with seniors Kyle McFarland, first-team All-Sunflower League in 2011, and Demarko Bobo manning the corners and junior Joe Dineen at free safety.
Offensively, starting center junior Reid Buckingham will have guard Buller and tackle Wyatt to his left, with guard Stanclift and senior tackle Derick Davis to his right.
Behind Free State’s O-line, McFarland returns at quarterback and senior TJ Cobbs leads a committee of running backs.
Junior tight end Zach Bickling and senior receivers Chris Heller, Sam Hearnen, and Hughes enter the season as the team’s top passing targets.
Starters on special teams are less clear, but Bobo and McFarland are punters, Winslow, sophomore Tripp Wright and senior Antonio Schoneich can kick, and Hughes, Dineen and Bobo will return punts and kickoffs.