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 — Tanner Green, so.
CB — Dearion Cooper, jr.
CB — Nick Benton, sr.
SS — Tucker Sutter, sr.
FS — Kieran Severa, sr.
Something about the start of district play makes everything seem a little more vital.
As Lawrence High’s football players prepared this week for tonight’s district opener — kickoff at 7 at Leavenworth — coach Dirk Wedd made it clear to them that this is the most important game the Lions (2-4) have played so far this season.
“There’s gotta be urgency involved,” Wedd said. “From this point on, if you win, you have control of your destiny. As soon as you lose a game, you have to start winning and hope things fall the right way. To take care of business is very important.”
Neither Leavenworth (2-4), Lawrence (2-4) nor Kansas City (Kan.) Wyandotte (3-3) has enjoyed the success of Free State (5-1) in Class 6A’s District 1, so members of all three of the aforementioned programs think they have a legitimate shot at winning a couple of games and emerging as the owner of the district’s second playoff berth.
Lions senior strong safety Tucker Sutter said it is up to him and other senior veterans, such as Drew Green, Kieran Severa, Kyle Wittman and Alex Jones, to set the tone for the final three weeks of the regular season.
“There’s a lot more intensity from everyone,” Sutter said. “The coaches, they’re really pushing us seniors to really get the younger guys going, because they’ve never been in this position before.”
In order to win and get a leg up in the district standings, the Lions will have to figure out a way to slow down the Sunflower League’s top running back, senior Jason Randall. The Pioneers’ go-to back averages 7.3 yards a carry and has rushed for 905 yards and nine touchdowns.
Lawrence linebacker Green, third in the league with 74 total tackles, outlined all the strategies the Lions’ defense will have to use in order to bring Randall down: “Hit him before he gets started, get some penetration, wrap him up, call for help from your buddies. You’ve just got to gang-tackle him. He’s elusive, and he’s strong, so it’s gonna take more than one person to bring him down at times.”
Under first-year Pioneers coach Mark Littrell, a former head coach at Olathe South, Leavenworth takes a rather conservative approach.
“I think (Littrell) thinks the first team to 21 may win the game,” Wedd said. “We’ve gotta find a way to score and play good defense.”
With that in mind, Green said the Lions must be aware of Randall as a threat on passing plays, too.
“We’re definitely gonna have to keep our eyes open and watch him at all times,” the senior said, “because he can take it the distance.”
Wedd said Lawrence’s defensive line will have to win the battle in the trenches, with seniors Wittman, Jones and Matt Weiss doing the grunt work inside and Zay Boldridge and Ryan Bellinger coming off the edges.
“If you can keep (Randall) penned in, you can control him somewhat,” the coach said. “He learns from each snap. He’s a very instinctive runner, and he feels how you’re defending him, and he’ll do something unusual.”