It’s not as if Lawrence High’s football players are excited they lost in heartbreaking fashion against Class 6A’s top-ranked team last week, but the Lions’ most recent performance has them eager as ever to get back on the gridiron.
It took a Shawnee Mission West touchdown with 13 seconds remaining for the defending state champion to keep LHS (0-3) from obtaining its first victory and the biggest upset of the season.
Still, Lawrence senior linebacker Ryan Bellinger said the players battled and proved something to themselves, so their confidence is at a new high as they head into tonight’s homecoming game against Olathe Northwest (1-2) at LHS — kickoff at 7.
“It definitely got us excited and showed us what we’re really capable of,” Bellinger said. “Some of the new stuff we put in, we’re excited to see what kind of success we have with it.”
After holding the SMW offense relatively in check, the Lions feel more secure than ever about their defense, too.
“We started to swarm to the ball better,” Bellinger said. “Everyone was attacking. Everyone really wanted a piece of the ball-carrier.”
Pleased as he was with his players’ efforts, LHS coach Dirk Wedd said the team remains a work in progress, and he said he was glad to see significant growth between the team’s 26-3 home loss to Shawnee Mission East and its near road upset of the Vikings.
“You’ve gotta teach them how to win, and right at the moment we can’t close the deal,” Wedd said. “There’s a process of growing. Even our older kids who didn’t play very much last year, it’s a process for them, too.”
In order to keep evolving, junior LHS quarterback Nyle Anderson said the Lions need a victory against the Ravens.
“We learned that we are a good team,” Anderson said regarding last week’s showing, “and we just need to grind through and just get together and get the chemistry flowing.”
Wedd is looking for continued stellar execution this week, similar to how LHS and its offensive line took it to SMW in the fourth quarter, against an ONW defensive front that he called “monster big.”
On the other side of the ball, senior Lions linebacker Drew Green (37 total tackles, four for loss) and the rest of the defense will have to worry about Ravens senior running back Cody Sestrich (6.1 yards a carry), as well as senior receivers Chase Gatlin (20 receptions, 200 yards) and Nathan Power (15 receptions, 132 yards).
Anderson thinks he, running back Green, senior receiver Zay Boldridge (14 catches, 126 yards) and the other LHS skill players are close to clicking, in large part due to the development of the O-line — senior center Kyle Wittman, senior guard Jacob Nation, senior tackle Alex Jones, junior guard Cole Greenwood and sophomore tackle Amani Bledsoe.
“I think we trust them more,” Anderson said, “and we’ll get our things down, and we’ll be able to time it up in the backfield.”
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.
WR — Kieran Severa, sr.
WR — Tucker Sutter, sr.
WR — Zay Boldridge, sr.
WR — Adam Hayes, sr.
DT — Kyle Wittman, sr.
NG — Matt Weiss, sr.
DT — Alex Jones, sr.
OLB — Kieran Severa, sr.
OLB — Ryan Bellinger, sr.
ILB — Drew Green, sr.
ILB — Price Morgan, so.
CB — JD Woods, so.
CB — Zakary McAlister, jr.
SS — Tucker Sutter, sr.
FS — Dearion Cooper, jr.