Sorting through a season’s worth of highlights in the memory bank can be difficult when touchdowns and victories are commonplace. Not much has gone awry for Lawrence High football this season, so the few shortcomings the Lions have encountered tend to stick out.
Chief among the sparse imperfections for LHS (8-2) was its season-opening 20-14 home loss to Shawnee Mission West back on Aug. 31. The Lions were reminded about that blemish a number of times during the regular season, even as they responded with a seven-game winning streak.
Now 10 weeks removed from that defeat, Lawrence has a chance to rectify it, with the Vikings (9-1) returning to LHS tonight for a rematch in the Class 6A state quarterfinals. Kickoff is at 7.
“I’m sure West is gonna come in here and think they can kick our butts again,” LHS coach Dirk Wedd said.
Sunflower League champion SMW is 5-0 on the road and has won eight straight games since its 28-14 loss to Free State on Sept. 7. Wedd is sure West senior running back Brett Sterbach (115 yards, three touchdowns against LHS in Week 1) is salivating at the prospect of facing the Lions again, especially after Lawrence gave up 328 yards to Gardner-Edgerton’s Traevohn Wrench in an opening-round playoff win.
Junior SMW quarterback AJ Verdini was 0-for-4 passing with an interception in the rainy season opener, but Wedd isn’t expecting another performance like that tonight, and Wedd said junior SMW receiver Andre Maloney is one of the fastest receivers in the league.
“We’ll have our hands full,” Wedd said. “We’ve got to play our best football game of the year to beat them.”
When LHS senior quarterback Brad Strauss thinks back on that six-point loss to SMW, he remembers the Lions’ three red-zone possessions in the final five minutes and how they failed to score on each trip.
Strauss (2,069 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, six interceptions) recalls a “terrible interception” he threw while falling down on a fourth-down pass with less than two minutes left. The cold reality of the loss, too, was hard to forget.
“I just remember feeling real disappointed, because we came into the season feeling real good, feeling like we had a shot to run the table and win a state championship,” Strauss said. “The first week, a loss was a wake-up call for us, really.”
LHS senior running back Tyrone Jenkins agreed and said Lawrence (34.7 points a game) couldn’t execute when it needed to in the opener. Jenkins (502 rushing yards, six touchdowns) considered it a learning experience for the Lions, who likely will need to produce more points in the rematch.
“We’ve got to be able to block and protect Brad and mainly just run the ball,” Jenkins said. “If we can run the ball in the game, they’ve got to stop the running back and the running game. That will open up the passing game for our great wide receivers.”
Senior LHS receivers Will Thompson (19.5 yards a reception), Erick Mayo (17.5) and Drake Hofer (12.9) have combined for 1,881 yards and 22 touchdowns.