Game-planning to face Lawrence High’s football team just got even harder.
Opponents know going into a game with the Lions that senior quarterback Brad Strauss and his stable of play-making receivers can be unstoppable at times. After senior running back Tyrone Jenkins returned to the starting lineup Friday in a 46-26 district victory for the Lions against Leavenworth, there is one more player to give opposing defensive coordinators migraine headaches.
Jenkins, who suffered a high-right-ankle sprain in mid-September, only carried the ball five times in his initial return to action last week, serving as a backup to Jordan Brown. But the 6-foot, 205-pound senior got his first start since Sept. 14 in the Lions’ district opener at home and rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
After the Lions (6-1) got to 1-0 in District 1, Jenkins said he knew this week he had to get back to his old workload.
“There’s still a little pain in it (the ankle), but I just figured it’s almost the playoffs, it’s time for me to push it,” Jenkins said. “This is the time to grow up if we really want to be state champions.”
The Lions’ coaches switched Jenkins and Brown in and out of the lineup to keep the Pioneers (3-4) off balance. With Lawrence needing to run out the clock with a double-digit, second-half lead, Brown finished with 11 carries, 40 yards and sealed the already-sure victory with an eight-yard rushing touchdown with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Jenkins gave credit to the Lions’ stellar air attack — Strauss completed passes to six targets, finishing with 179 passing yards and two scores.
“Our wide receivers are great, and once we get them the ball, they’ve got to back off us, and that’s when me and JB (Brown) step in,” Jenkins said. “We can run it, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it. Brad’s a threat, as well.”
Indeed, Strauss rushed 16 times for 87 yards and two touchdowns, and Lawrence finished with 275 rushing yards, compared to Leavenworth’s 71 on a rainy night.
Lions coach Dirk Wedd is glad to have two running back options now with Jenkins nearly back to 100 percent and Brown more experienced after filling in for him.
“It helps us because they’re a little bit different backs,” Wedd said. “Jordan’s got a little bit of quicks and Tyrone’s a load. He’s 210 pounds and he runs hard with his pads down.”
Strauss praised Jenkins for having great hands —he recovered a Pioneers onside kick in the fourth quarter with Lawrence leading 40-26 with 5:34 left — and strength.
“He’s tough to bring down,” Strauss said. “After the first few plays when the defenders tackle him, I’m sure they don’t want to deal with him much the rest of the game.”
Brown, who also spends a lot of time playing linebacker and had a sack and fumble recovery in the first quarter, said he liked having more breathers with Jenkins getting the majority of the carries, and said the Lions offensive linemen — Alex Jones, Jacob Warren, Kyle Wittman, Kharon Brown and Chris Gillespie, among others — opened up the ground attack.
“They went out and hit them (Leavenworth defenders) first,” Jordan Brown said. “When you get the first hit in and you don’t receive the first hit, a lot of good things start going your way.”
The game didn’t start off great for Lawrence, which hadn’t trailed since its season-opening loss to Shawnee Mission West. The Lions were down 12-8 early in the second quarter before putting together a 74-yard TD drive behind two fourth-down conversions. Strauss, who punts for Lawrence when he’s not throwing or running, had his punt blocked on a fourth-and-nine at the Lions’ 27-yard line. But instead of giving the Pioneers great field position, Strauss raced to the loose ball, scooped it up and ran 10 yards down the right sideline for a first down.
Strauss accounted for 57 total yards on the drive, including an eight-yard run on another fourth down and a 16-yard TD that led to a 16-12 Lions lead.
After Drew Green intercepted a pass from Leavenworth QB Judson Cole on the ensuing possession, the Lions put together a nearly flawless two-minute drill.
With 1:51 left until halftime, Lawrence went 53 yards on 11 plays. Jenkins finished the drive with his second rushing touchdown of the night. Strauss held the ball on an option pitch until Jenkins had all the space in the world on the right side and the big back ran for a 1-yard score, setting up a 22-12 Lions lead with eight seconds left on the clock.
Next up for Lawrence in District 1 is a trip to Kansas City, Kan., Wyandotte, which lost 49-6 at Free State on Friday.
First downs 9 19
Rushes-yards 32-134 49-275
Passing yards 71 179
Total offense 205 454
Return yards 162 45
Fumbles-lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 2-12 7-60
Score by quarters
Leav. 6 6 6 8 — 26
Lawr. 8 14 12 12 — 46
Leav.: Jason Randall 19-85 TD, Isaiah Ross 4-54 TD, Landry Hodges 3-7, Judson Cole 6-minus-14.
Lawr.: Tyrone Jenkins 17-107 2 TDs, Brad Strauss 16-87 2 TDs, Jordan Brown 11-40 TD, Erick Mayo 4-29, Kieran Severa 1-12.
Leav.: Hodges 4-7-71, Cole 0-5-0 interception.
Lawr.: Strauss 17-25-179 2 TDs.
Leav.: Jeff George 3-61, Ross 1-10.
Lawr.: Mayo 4-62 TD, Drake Hofer 4-49 TD, Will Thompson 5-38, Josh Seybert 1-10, Brown 1-10, Jenkins 2-10.
HOW THEY SCORED
5:44 — Jason Randall 14 run. Judson Cole kick failed. (Leav. 6, Lawr. 0.)
2:03 — Tyrone Jenkins 1 run. Erick Mayo pass from Brad Strauss (Lawr. 8, Leav. 6.)
11:00 — Isaiah Ross 32 run. Cole pass failed. (Leav. 12, Lawr. 8.)
4:39 — Strauss 16 run. Strauss run. (Lawr. 16, Leav. 12.)
0:08 — Jenkins 1 run. Strauss run failed. (Lawr. 22, Leav. 12.)
9:02 — Mayo 33 pass from Strauss. Jenkins run failed. (Lawr. 28, Leav. 12.)
1:38 — Drake Hofer 19 pass from Strauss. Strauss pass failed. (Lawr. 34, Leav. 12.)
1:19 — Randall 88 kickoff return. Cole pass failed. (Lawr. 34, Leav. 18.)
8:42 — Strauss 1 run. Strauss pass failed. (Lawr. 40, Leav. 18.)
5:36 — Ross 27 run. Landry Hodges run. (Lawr. 40, Leav. 26.)
0:35 — Jordan Brown 8 run. Brown run failed. (Lawr. 46, Leav. 26.)