Column: Lions’ Alan Clothier looking better than ever

So many weapons, big and small, fast and faster, dot the Lawrence High football roster that it makes it difficult to identify the Lions’ most valuable player. Cases could be made for so many seniors.

Running back/defensive back JD Woods, state runner-up in the 100 meters, is the first that comes to mind.

Two-way linemen Amani Bledsoe and Trey Georgie, and tight end/linebacker Price Morgan, who soars for catches and rocks ball carriers, also merit mention.

Answering the question as to which player on the roster needed to improve the most for LHS to become a state-champion-caliber team poses no such challenge. To tie all the talent together the Lions needed quarterback Alan Clothier to perform like a senior.

State-champion wrestler and starting quarterback as a sophomore, Clothier didn’t take a big leap forward as a junior. Based on his performance in Friday night’s season-opening 35-14 victory against a talented Blue Valley West squad, Clothier appears poised to fulfill early projections of excellence.

In guiding the Lions to a 28-0 halftime lead, Clothier looked more decisive, more confident, even faster than in younger years. He finished the night completing 10 of 14 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 30 yards on eight carries.

“Exponentially improved,” was how Morgan described his quarterback. “I think the big thing is confidence. He started throwing the ball more this summer. He just got reps and getting that (extra) work with wide receivers, tight ends, anybody. You just see him drop back in the pocket, and he knows what he’s going to do. There’s no doubt in his mind. He’s a great leader.”

One of Clothier’s most impressive passes came when he hit Morgan high in the end zone for an 18-yard score.

“It was awesome,” Morgan said. “I told Alan before the play, ‘I’m going to be open here.’ He threw a great ball. It’s awesome. I really feel like that (passing well) is going to put us over the edge from being a good team to a great team. I’m pumped.”

Less than pumped about his team’s lackluster second-half performance, LHS coach Dirk Wedd liked the early returns on his quest to make defenses respect the pass.

“He can throw the football,” Wedd said of his QB. “He worked his tail off. We were dead last in pass offense last year. We averaged, like, 50 yards a game. One of our goals coming in was to be more balanced. He worked and worked all summer. The pass is really something we need to continue to work on.”

Clothier is a factor in creating balance within the running game as well by making the defense respect more than just Woods.

“He reads a lot of stuff where if JD doesn’t get the ball he keeps it and we block it in such a manner,” Wedd said.

Clothier made the necessary offseason steps to make the Lions a better offense.

“We’re just looking for the pass to open up the run even more,” Clothier said. “Last year we had the run and we didn’t have the pass.”

On the track and football turf, Woods is an amazing finisher, but it all starts with the decisions made by Clothier.

“It helps tremendously,” Clothier said of being a senior. “I’ve been on the field for three years. It makes it easier. I’m used to how fast the game is going.”

He made it look easier Friday than he did in the past.