Lions out to prove hype warranted

Lawrence High’s football players heard all of the talk in the offseason about how their talent and experience should translate into becoming one of the top teams in the state this season.

Now they have to prove it.

With 16 returning starters, including a few players with Div. I college scholarship offers, the Lions are ready to show how much they’ve improved when they face Blue Valley West in their season opener at 7 tonight at LHS.

“We’re supposed to be a really good football team with a lot of potential,” senior lineman Trey Georgie said. “But potential is just talk unless we implement it and play. I think we can do that. We have a lot of talent. We just have to show it.”

LHS senior quarterback Alan Clothier has worked on his passing throughout the offseason, hoping to add some explosiveness to the offense. The Lions also have senior JD Woods, junior Trey Moore and sophomore Dante Jackson in the backfield. Woods led the Sunflower League with 1,667 rushing yards last year, adding 20 touchdowns.

Defensively, the Lions are loaded with speed and strength. All-state returner Amani Bledsoe, one of the top recruits nationally, leads a potent defensive line with Georgie, Nathan Koehn and Jacob Unruh. They also return three starting linebackers: seniors Price Morgan, Tanner Green and Konner Kelley.

However, they won’t completely be at full strength. The Lions will be without cornerback Jared Dudley, linebacker Matt Jacobsen and defensive lineman Peter Afful because of injuries.

“We’ve been planning on this class,” LHS coach Dirk Wedd said of the seniors. “Eleven of them lettered as sophomores. That’s unheard of. Now we took our lumps. Last year they were pretty much the leaders of that football team because most of them started.”

Blue Valley West (ranked No. 4 in Class 5A in the coaches’ poll) crushed Lawrence in last year’s season opener, 37-13. The Jaguars return six starters on offense and five on defense, including 6-foot-4 quarterback Nathan Wiles, a University of Oklahoma baseball commit, and cornerback and receiver Mark Collins Jr.

The Lions want to show how much potential they have, but more than anything, they’re just happy to be returning to the field.

“Oh, man, this has been a very long week for me,” senior receiver and cornerback Ivan Hollins said. “I’ve been counting down since the summer. I’ve been waiting for this game for a long time.”