More than ever before, Lawrence High’s football team is focusing on special teams in practice this season. The early results are impressive.
The Lions (4-0, ranked No. 3 in Class 6A by kpreps.com) have blocked three punts, recovered a fumbled snap on a punt and haven’t allowed any long kickoff or punt returns. With a potent offense and strong defense, the Lions hope their play on special teams continues against Shawnee Mission South at 7 tonight at LHS.
During the offseason, LHS assistant coach Jeff Lyster showed head coach Dirk Wedd a multi-page handout for strategies on punt returns. Wedd then attended a Kansas University football clinic and heard from a Texas high school coach who talked about the importance of special teams.
“We (coaches) put our heads together and decided we were going to make a huge commitment on special teams,” Wedd said. “We probably spend 15 minutes a day more than we have in the past, which is a lot when you talk about a two-hour practice.”
Two of the blocked punts this season were returned for touchdowns, both by junior Erik Shackelford.
“I got lucky,” Shackelford said. “I guess it was right time, right place. I have no idea how to explain it. It’s just amazing.”
LHS senior running back JD Woods blocked the first punt, rushing off of the edge, and the ball bounced right into Shackelford’s hands as he ran into the end zone.
Last week, senior defensive end Amani Bledsoe was responsible for a block, his second blocked punt this year.
“I shot my gap like coach says,” Bledsoe said. “I saw the snap was a little bit off. Then I just ran right through the guy and blocked it.”
Shackelford added: “I just see Amani — I thought he was going to kill the punter. He was all up in his face. Then I see the ball, and I just took off full speed to the ball. I was going to dive, but I heard coaches saying, ‘Pick it up.’ Luckily, I didn’t step out of bounds.”
Each area of special teams is run by a different assistant coach. Lyster is responsible for the punt team, Seth Homolka coaches punt return/block, Chris Johnson leads the kickoff return, and Jamie Resseguie coaches the kickoff team, otherwise known as the bomb squad.
“It’s really caught fire,” Wedd said. “The kids fight to get on it. You can tell when you have your best football players on it, they’ve really bought into it.”
Moore out for several weeks
The Lions will likely be without junior running back Trey Moore for the remainder of the regular season after he suffered a fractured scapula in his left shoulder in last week’s victory over SM Northwest.
Moore sustained the injury when he was tackled near the LHS sideline during the third quarter. He finished with 96 yards on six carries last week. He hopes to return in five or six weeks, which would be around the start of the state playoffs, if the Lions advance.
“I didn’t know I really hurt it until I hit the ground weird,” said Moore, who has his left arm in a sling. “I just fell on my left shoulder, and it felt like it popped out of place, but it was worse than that.”
LHS probable starters
LT — Trey Georgie, sr.
LG — Jacob Unruh, jr.
C — Mark Greene, jr.
RG — Jesse Tunget, jr.
RT — Amani Bledsoe, sr.
QB — Alan Clothier, sr.
RB — JD Woods, sr.
H — Dante’ Jackson, so.
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 — JD Woods, sr.
FS — Cade Burghart, jr.