The way Lawrence High football coach Dirk Wedd sees it, his team has spent its preseason practices cramming for a test.
Tonight at 7 on their home field, the Lions will find out if they aced it or bombed it against Shawnee Mission West.
The Vikings have athletic receivers with size, Wedd pointed out, and won a couple of seven-on-seven tournaments this past summer. Because SMW is capable of attacking through the air, Wedd said the Lions must get to the quarterback to help out their corners, 5-foot-10 Erick Mayo and 5-9 Will Thompson.
“They’ll be giving up, five, six, seven inches to those guys,” the coach said.
West’s passing game isn’t the end of Wedd’s concerns, either.
“Their speed scares me to death,” he said. “If we don’t control their little running back (senior Brett Sterbach), he could have 200 yards on us.”
The Lions, of course, have heard all of this from the coaching staff. Senior receiver Drake Hofer said the Lions know their season opener won’t be easy, but they feel they have some strengths of their own, particularly in their senior backfield, with quarterback Brad Strauss and running back Tyrone Jenkins.
“Tyrone’s been doing real well,” Hofer said of practices, “so I think he’ll have a big day.”
Two-way senior lineman Kharon Brown said LHS should be ready for the opener.
“I think our skill positions have a little bit more experience overall,” Brown said. “Our line … we’ve really been working on improving,”
Lawrence, Brown added, will have to play disciplined and tenacious football, because he knows SMW hasn’t forgotten its 35-12 loss to the Lions last year.
“They’re gonna have a lot of energy coming in,” the lineman said.
Most of Lawrence’s O-line doesn’t have Brown’s experience, which concerns Wedd. Still, the coach thinks his team’s crop of three-year starters should be able to settle down the new linemen and get everyone on the same page.
Hofer said those seniors who have been playing since they were sophomores are eager to begin their senior campaign, which they hope will include a lengthy postseason run.
“We feel like we’ve got a lot of hype to live up to, a lot of pressure on our shoulders,” Hofer said, “but we’re ready to go out there and actually play a game.”
The anticipation, Brown added, has been killing him.
“It’s pretty bad,” he said. “This has been a really slow week.”