SM Northwest to test Lions’ secondary
With blowout wins in the first two football games of the season, Lawrence High’s defensive backs survived their first big test of the season when they kept Free State out of the end zone on a 19-play, fourth-quarter drive for a victory in the City Showdown last week.
On that drive, Free State attempted 12 passes and the Lions allowed just six completions and only two plays longer than 10 yards.
The LHS secondary will be tested again throughout tonight’s game against Shawnee Mission Northwest at 7 p.m. at SM North District Stadium.
“We’ve come a long ways,” LHS coach Dirk Wedd said of the secondary. “I think we gave up over 200 (passing) yards to Blue Valley West. They gave up some yards the other night (against Free State), but they played so hard. That last drive, that’s just sheer determination on 11 people to keep them out of the end zone.”
The Cougars (1-2) feature a strong passing attack with senior quarterback Ron Kopp and 6-foot-4 senior receiver Gerrit Prince. They’ve averaged nearly 25 points per game against top-ranked opponents Shawnee Mission East and Blue Valley.
“I’m loving it. This is like a cornerback’s game right here,” senior cornerback Ivan Hollins said. “I heard they were 70/30 pass to run (ratio), so that’s all us in this game. We just have to keep our hearts up and keep playing the way we’ve been doing.”
The Lions (3-0, ranked No. 3 in Class 6A by kpreps.com) have plenty of experience on the defensive line and at linebacker, but some new faces in the secondary.
Seniors Hollins and JD Woods are returning starters from last season, but junior safety Cade Burghart, sophomore cornerback Dante’ Jackson, and sophomore safety Jalen Dudley are new to the varsity level.
Even with some injuries — the Lions will be without senior safety Coulter Strauss for the remainder of the season — they are happy with their improvement through the first three weeks of the year.
“We have a lot of confidence, especially the secondary because we just worked hard that whole last drive (against Free State),” Burghart said. “We feel good.”
The Lions know they’ll need their secondary at their best against SM Northwest, but they’re also focused on putting the Free State win behind them, especially with their next game a day earlier than usual, which led to a “hectic” practice week.
“Teenagers have a tendency to pat themselves on the back for a while,” Wedd said. “I’m hoping this group is pretty mature and they understand what the goal is. Our goal was never to beat Free State. Our goal is a nine-game schedule. I’m hoping that they figure that out.”
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 — Trey Moore, jr.
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.