Perhaps it is appropriate on Halloween week that Lawrence High’s football team will be tasked with stopping a monster running back.
The Lions open the Class 6A playoffs tonight at Gardner-Edgerton — kickoff is 7, with a live telecast available on KSMO, which is available on Knology Cable channels 3 and 203. Waiting for them will be junior Traevohn Wrench, who has spent the past four weeks terrorizing opposing defenses and devouring chunks of yardage at an alarming rate.
In his last four games — all Trailblazers victories — the 6-foot-1, 191-pound match-up nightmare has rushed for 1,277 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Lawrence’s defense has seen the video evidence of Wrench’s freakish streak. Senior linebacker Drew Green said Wrench gets from one sideline to another faster than anyone he has seen this season.
“People have angles on him, and they’re running their hardest, and he just seems effortless and goes around them and just flies down the field,” Green said. “No one’s catching him when he gets in open space, either.”
GEHS coach Marvin Diener, who won six 5A state championships in 19 seasons at Salina Central, coached three SCHS backs to 3,000-yard seasons: Donnie Anders, Parker Wallace and Jake Sharp.
Entering the playoffs, Wrench has 1,940 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns this season, relatively low totals considering his recent tear. Diener said Wrench suffered from a bad case of turf toe early in the season and finally became healthy in the past few weeks.
Like a proud father thinking of his children, Diener would never say one running back was the best or his favorite — he said all, including Wrench, are different backs on different teams. But he didn’t hesitate to call his current rushing star one of the most talented he has ever been around.
“Trae doesn’t take a back seat to any of those players,” the coach said, “and has a lot of the same qualities.”
People in Lawrence might be most familiar with Sharp, who spent four seasons in the Kansas University backfield. Diener said Sharp and Wrench are similarly dynamic rushers, and both earned the respect of the players around them.
The main difference between the two? Patience. Diener said Sharp didn’t wait for running lanes to develop, while Wrench eases into a carry while reading his blocks.
That’s one of the things LHS coach Dirk Wedd and his staff noticed about Wrench, too, while watching video of him destroying Sunflower League teams Olathe South, Olathe North and Olathe Northwest in district play. Wrench torched each defense for at least 300 yards.
“He’s a time bomb,” Wedd said. “You can stop him for seven, eight, nine, 10 times. In fact, he’s carried over 90 times in those three games — we’ve charted it — and 70-some times it’s for three yards or less.”
But then Wrench will get another carry and bust a touchdown run for 50 yards or more.
“You hold your breath every time he touches it,” Wedd said.
The coach called Wrench “a different animal” than the other running backs the Lions (7-2) have faced this season, and they have allowed 180.7 rushing yards a game. Wrench averages 215.5 yards a game and 9.4 yards a carry for the Blazers (6-3).
Though stopping Wrench might seem like a scary proposition, Green said Lawrence’s defensive players think they are up for it. The linebacker said they’ll be taking a “he’s not gonna do that on us” mentality.
“We’re just focusing on stopping him,” Green said, “taking it one step at a time, stopping him and stopping everything else they have.”