Lawrence High’s football team is well-known for its defensive front seven, which has shut down opposing run games all season long.
Now, the LHS secondary will get its biggest test of the season against Shawnee Mission North at 7 p.m. today at LHS in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
The eighth-seeded Indians (3-6) featured one of the top passing attacks in the Sunflower League this season, led by junior quarterback Will Schneider, a three-year starter.
Schneider tossed for 2,089 yards and 16 touchdowns in the regular season with only seven interceptions in 292 attempts. He also ran for 393 yards and nine touchdowns.
“We haven’t seen anybody as good as (Schneider),” LHS coach Dirk Wedd said. “This kid is outstanding. He’s got four receivers — not just one — he’s got four that could hurt us. We’re not a dominant secondary. We’re little and we’re young back there. That’s where people can expose us if we don’t play as a team.”
The Lions’ secondary has faced some solid passing teams this season, holding Blue Valley West and Shawnee Mission Northwest to just one touchdown pass each.
But the top-ranked Lions (9-0) learned their toughest lesson two weeks ago. Olathe North scored three touchdowns through the air in the fourth quarter and fought back from a 17-point deficit.
“Don’t get beat deep,” senior cornerback Ivan Hollins said of what he learned. “That’s all I’ve got for that one. We’ve learned a lot since then in the secondary and so we’ll be better the next time that situation comes.”
The LHS secondary features Hollins and sophomore Dante’ Jackson at cornerback and juniors Cade Burghart and Santino Gee as safeties. Gee became a starter at free safety in the middle of the season after injuries to senior Coulter Strauss and sophomore Jalen Dudley.
“It’s time to show the coaches what I can do and how hard I’ve worked for this,” Gee said.
Wedd stressed the Lions’ pass coverage is a team effort, needing a strong pass rush and solid coverage underneath on short throws by their linebackers to be successful.
But the Lions’ secondary knows it’s going to be challenged and is prepared to make plays.
“It’s a (defensive back’s) dream game,” Hollins said. “You know you’re going to get a lot of opportunities. It’s how you react to those.”
Padia out for season
LHS senior receiver Luke Padia broke his leg during last week’s victory and will be out for the remainder of the season.
Padia, who caught the game-winning touchdown against Olathe North two weeks ago, suffered the injury following a 16-yard reception in the second quarter.
“That’s a big loss,” Wedd said. “He was starting to come on. He had a great game against Olathe North. He won the game for us. We’re banged up. We’re playing with our third-string free safety and we’re now down to three or four wide receivers, and have to play some young kids there.”
Padia had four catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns this season.
LHS probable starters
LT — Trey Georgie, sr.
LG — Jacob Unruh, jr.
C — Mark Greene, jr.
RG — Ethan Taylor, so.
RT — Amani Bledsoe, sr.
QB — Alan Clothier, sr.
RB — JD Woods, sr.
H — Peter Afful, sr.
WR — Ivan Hollins, sr.
WR — J’Mony Bryant, sr.
TE — Price Morgan, sr.
K — Cole Brungardt, jr.
P — Alan Clothier, sr.
DE — Trey Georgie, sr.
DT — Nathan Koehn, sr.
DT — Jacob Unruh, jr.
DE — Amani Bledsoe, sr.
LB — Konner Kelley, sr.
LB — Price Morgan, sr.
LB — Tanner Green, sr.
CB — Dante’ Jackson, so.
CB — Ivan Hollins, sr.
SS — Cade Burghart, jr.
FS — Santino Gee, jr.