There has been no time this week for Lawrence High’s football players to recover from the wounds inflicted upon their psyches and self-images by Shawnee Mission East in a 23-point home loss on Friday.
Not with defending Class 6A state champion Shawnee Mission West (2-0, ranked No. 1 in 6A by Kpreps.com) awaiting the Lions tonight — kickoff at 7 — at Shawnee Mission South District Stadium.
The Vikings beat LHS twice last season, and will face the Lions (0-2) for the third time in 14 games. But past results, Lions coach Dirk Wedd said, are only one of the problems facing his team.
“I’m more concerned with the short week (playing on a Thursday),” Wedd said, “because our kids need a lot of coaching, a lot of teaching.”
Lawrence’s staff has poured information into its young players as fast as they can absorb it. Senior center Kyle Wittman said as the Lions make corrections, they want to move past their 26-3 loss to SME.
“Last week was last week,” Wittman said. “We’re not really worried about last week anymore. We’re 0-2 and we’re dealing with it.”
Forgetting the past becomes easier, senior receiver and linebacker Kieran Severa said, with the anticipation of competing against the team considered by many to be the best in the state.
“We’re playing someone who’s gonna challenge us,” Severa said, “and we want to find out what kind of team we are.”
The Vikings’ top skill players — receiver Andre Maloney (who verbally committed to Kansas), quarterback AJ Verdini and receiver Justin Hobbs — helped SMW defeat Olathe South, 23-8, last week. Knowing how overpowering the Vikings can be at times, Wedd gave his players a simple approach for tonight.
“We’re gonna win the first quarter, come hell or high water,” the coach told them. “And then let’s try to win the second quarter, and let’s get to halftime and see where we’re at.
“A team like us, we need to win a football game,” the coach added, “but we also need to put some small goals out there that we can attain.”
Wittman said the Lions heard their coaches’ message, loud and clear.
“With a team that good, the game’s never won or lost in the first or second quarter,” the senior lineman said, “but they can definitely do some damage really, really quickly.”
Lawrence junior quarterback Nyle Anderson connected with senior receiver Zay Boldridge for 74 yards last week, and senior running back Drew Green rushed for 48 yards, but LHS never got the ball across the goal line.
The Lions don’t want that to happen again, and Severa said they want to prove they have a legitimate team — even if everyone outside the program expects them to lose to SMW.
“When we’re 0-2 and lost like we did, nobody should give us a chance to win,” Severa said. “It’s our job to show the community what kind of team we are.”