In a way, Olathe North High’s football team might have done Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd a favor.
Not that the Lions (2-3) were feeling cocky after winning two games in a row, but it’s a little easier for their coach to make his points when he talks about how this week’s opponent knocked off previously top-ranked Free State.
“Anybody that can put up (251) yards rushing against Free State,” Wedd said, “that gets your attention real quick, because they’re probably the top defense in the conference.”
The coach’s primary concern for tonight’s game — kickoff at 7 at LHS — is scheming some way to slow down the Eagles’ top three offensive weapons: running back Venus Triplett, quarterback Cole Murphy and tight end Josh Moore.
“We’re playing against men now,” Wedd said. “This is not for the weak of heart. They’re gonna throw haymakers, and we’ve got to be able to withstand that and throw some of our own.”
O-North (3-2), even in its losses, has ridden the dynamic combination of Triplett (637 rushing yards, nine touchdowns) and Murphy (423 rushing yards, six touchdowns). Senior Lions defensive end Zay Boldridge said he and his teammates can’t allow the Eagles to create large gaps that give their skill players the running lanes to make game-altering plays.
“We’re a young team,” Boldridge said, “but I think we can step up and defend them.”
A senior defensive tackle, Alex Jones said LHS must stymie O-North before it can get rolling.
“If you can beat the five linemen and put pressure on the running back and quarterback,” Jones said, “that’ll take them out of the play.”
Junior Lions quarterback Nyle Anderson returns to the lineup this week after an illness forced him to miss the team’s road win against Shawnee Mission Northwest. In the victory, sophomore quarterback Alan Clothier shined, rushing for 160 yards.
Said Boldridge of Clothier, the team’s newest proven weapon: “That was the first time I ever saw him run that fast.”
Wedd said Lawrence needs Anderson, Clothier, running back Drew Green (457 rushing yards) and the rest of the offensive players to perform better than they have all season in order to beat O-North.
“They’ll bully you if you let ’em,” Wedd said of the Eagles’ defense. “They’ll stop the ball. They made Free State throw the football. That’s a concern.”
Jones and his fellow offensive linemen — Cole Greenwood, Kyle Wittman, Jacob Nation and Amani Bledsoe — know they will play as big a part as anyone in the offense’s success.
“The thing O-North has going for them is their aggressiveness,” Jones said.
LHS probable starters
LT — Alex Jones, sr. LG — Cole Greenwood, jr. C — Kyle Wittman, sr. RG — Jacob Nation, sr. RT — Amani Bledsoe, so.
QB — Nyle Anderson, jr. RB — Drew Green, sr. TE — Adam Hayes, sr. TE — Price Morgan, so. WR — Kieran Severa, sr. WR — Zay Boldridge, sr.
DT — Kyle Wittman, sr. NG — Matt Weiss, sr. DT — Alex Jones, sr. DE — Zay Boldridge, sr. DE — Ryan Bellinger, sr.
ILB — Drew Green, sr. ILB — Price Morgan, so. CB — JD Woods, so. CB — Nick Benton, sr. SS — Tucker Sutter, sr. FS — Kieran Severa, sr.