The Lawrence High football team has punished opposing defenses with its ground attack in recent years with the likes of running backs JD Woods and Trey Moore and quarterback Dante' Jackson.
With Woods now entering his redshirt freshman season at Baker and Moore launching his college career at Emporia State this fall, the Lions have turned to another powerful running back in Hunter Krom to join Jackson in the backfield.
Krom and Jackson displayed a dynamic one-two punch during the Lions' scrimmage on Saturday at LHS, but the fans in attendance got to see a glimpse of what could be a very potent passing game, too.
Senior wide receiver Ekow Boye-Doe was in sync with both Jackson and backup Garrett Romero, as he hauled in long touchdown strikes from each quarterback to highlight the scrimmage.
LHS, FSHS football scrimmages
Lawrence High and Free State's football teams were back in action for their respective scrimmages on Saturday.
"It's something new. I think we need that," Boye-Doe said of the big plays. "We have a great running back —Hunter Krom. He can run it whenever, so we'll be good. We've got some good wide receivers — Jalen Dudley, Bryson (Cummins) and Chris McGee are making plays. We've got young guys making plays."
Boye-Doe had a busy summer on the recruiting trail as well. The senior wideout earned offers from Kansas and K-State before getting his first out-of-state Div. I-FBS offer last week from Tulane.
"It's very exciting for a school that's out-of-state to believe in me," Boye-Doe said. "It's big for me, but I'm just ready to get out here and play with my team and make something happen."
Between Boye-Doe, Dudley, Cummins, McGee and Brett Chapple, Lawrence High coach Dirk Wedd is excited about the potential of his receiving corps. Wedd made sure to give some recognition after the scrimmage to two of the Lions' top receiving threats from last year as well in Harrison King and Caleb Mondi. The duo will be play on the defensive side of the ball this year, and Wedd praised their efforts from the first week of practice.
"They were wide receivers last year and we've moved them to linebacker and the secondary. They bleed red and back," Wedd said of King and Mondi. "They want to be receivers like everybody, but for the good of the team, we need them over there. They've really had a good week. That's a really big plus for us."
Wedd was also encouraged by how his defensive line performed at the scrimmage. While Wedd expects the Lions to have some growing pains up front, the LHS coach believes things will start to come along if they continue to put forth the effort that they've been giving.
"Those four guys up front, they get tired, but man oh man can they play," Wedd said. "When their motor is running, (Eric) Galbreath and Sam Bart, (EJ) Jewsome and Billy Bob (Kaiden Ambrose). Those four upfront people have really done a good job improving."
Free State quarterback competition still open
Free State football coach Bob Lisher saw the potential of what can happen if some of his offensive playmakers can get just even a little bit of space on Saturday during the Firebirds' scrimmage at FSHS.
On the first possession of the scrimmage, the offense was faced with a third and long around midfield. Free State junior Keenan Garber caught a pass from senior quarterback Gage Foster about five yards short of the sticks before shedding a few defenders and breaking free down the sideline for a touchdown.
"Pretty much at the beginning of the season, I'm just trying to do as much as I can," Garber said. "Really just get the ball and just go and follow my blockers."
The defense allowed another uncharacteristic third and long conversion on the second drive, but locked in after that. Sophomore Joey Eddis picked off junior Jordan Preston on the following play, and Gabe del Valle hauled in an interception on the next drive to give the defensive unit some confidence.
"Well defensively, I thought we made some assignment mistakes, but I thought we were a physical defense. That's what I really enjoyed with watching our guys come up and make some plays," Lisher said. "The thing about it is that we were very, very off offensively, but we were coming back and playing physical. But our defense was pretty physical today, and we liked that."
The experienced Firebird defense flew to the ball throughout the scrimmage to make life difficult for the quarterbacks. Foster, Preston and Malik Berry have been battling it out for the starting spot, and Lisher said he still hasn't determined who will get the nod in the Firebirds' season opener against Shawnee Mission West.
"We'll look at this film and see," Lisher said. "I think we're a little bit closer to making a decision after today, but we've still got some competition going on. I think we're getting closer."
While Garber was one of the top offensive threats in the scrimmage, he also made a big impact on defense with two interceptions. Jalen Nash and David Johnson also came up with picks.
Jax Dineen joined Garber in playing on both sides of the ball. Dineen made his presence felt in the middle of a hard-hitting linebacking corps and chipped in a 1-yard touchdown run. The Free State junior scampered into the end zone untouched, which is something Lisher is hoping to see a lot more of.
"Having Jax back there should be a confidence builder for the offensive linemen and it should be for everybody because the kid is pretty good," Lisher said. "Obviously if he's in there, we've got to do a better job of blocking up front and making things easier on him so he doesn't have to run over everybody all of the time."