With just two games left in the regular season, Lawrence High football coach Dirk Wedd isn’t satisfied with his team’s six-game winning streak.
Unconvinced the Lions have yet become a finished product, Wedd wants them ready for their potential postseason berth, which LHS could clinch as early as tonight with a District 1 victory at Kansas City, Kan. Wyandotte (kickoff at 7).
“We can get a lot better,” Wedd said. “It’s time to make a jump up.”
Specifically, the coach is looking for his offensive and defensive linemen to be the aggressors at the line of scrimmage.
“It’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel all year,” Wedd said of Lawrence’s physicality in the trenches. “Whether giving up too many yards rushing or not getting as many rushing yards as we want, it starts up front.”
LHS (6-1 overall, 1-0 district) is eighth in the Sunflower League in rush defense, allowing 200.4 yards a game, and ninth in offensive rushing yards, with 181.6 a game.
Lawrence junior center Kyle Wittman, one of four new starters on the O-line this season, said experienced senior Kharon Brown has helped with the group’s development and the linemen have learned to move on after a bad play. Wittman admitted the inexperience led to a sluggish start for the O-line, but now he and fellow starters Brown, Alex Jones, Jacob Warren and Chris Gillespie, as well as subs Art Hall and Nick Long, feel like they’re improving each week.
Wittman said the secret to their development, as well as the team’s, has been productive practices.
“We haven’t had a bad one in a while,” the center said, “and Coach Wedd keeps telling us to focus on the current week, and don’t get ahead of ourselves and make every game like it’s your last one, so that’s what we’ve been doing all season. It seems like it’s been working.”
Senior defensive tackle Cole Cummins agreed, and said the offensive line’s improvement has been a huge part of Lawrence’s success.
“At the beginning of the year that was the big question mark for us,” Cummins said. “Everyone knew we had really good skill positions, but weren’t sure exactly how our line was gonna be.”
The skill players have lived up to expectations, too. Senior receivers Will Thompson (484 receiving yards), Erick Mayo (422) and Drake Hofer (373) have helped senior quarterback Brad Strauss become the Sunflower League’s total offense leader, with 2,039 yards. Strauss has thrown 16 touchdown passes and rushed for 10 more.
The Lions are 3-0 on the road this season, outscoring their opponents 120-48. They’ll look to add to that trend at Wyandotte (5-2, 0-1). Wedd expects his players, as usual, to be up for the task.
“They’re really good about focusing in on the next opponent,” the coach said, “and every week we’ve said, ‘If we can get better, then maybe we’ll be good at the end of the season.’”