Throughout the entire offseason, Lawrence High’s football team has worked on rebuilding its defense.
After losing nearly every defensive starter from last season, the Lions will feature a new-look group in their season opener against Shawnee Mission Northwest at 7 p.m. today at SM North District Stadium.
“It’s going to be a big game, not just for me but for the other defensive players,” senior linebacker Ja’Relle Dye said. “Especially linebackers, we’re all new. None of us have played linebacker before."
Dye, who played cornerback last year, was one of several players on the defensive side of the ball to change positions in the offseason. Caleb Mondi and Harrison King moved from receiver to linebacker and safety, respectively.
Facing a veteran offense in practice, Dye admitted there were times when the defense was “struggling a lot.” But each day, they’ve slowly gained experience and become more comfortable.
“It’s been a learning experience, but I guess the past few weeks we’ve started to put everything together,” senior safety Harrison King said. “It’s coming along.”
For the first two weeks of the season, the Lions will play on Thursdays, which players expect will result in smaller than usual crowds.
But if the team has to play games on Thursdays, Wedd believes the best time is at the start of the season.
“It really kind of works out good because we’re ready to play,” Wedd said. “I’d like to have another day, but not really. They are tired of hitting each other, so that’ll be good.”
Wedd said the Lions will be playing their opener without quarterback Dante Jackson and offensive lineman Kristian Russell for disciplinary reasons. Potential starters John Ely (guard) and Kaiden Ambrose (defensive tackle) are out with injuries and all-league receiver Clarence King is expected to miss the entire season because of a knee injury he suffered during an AAU basketball game.
SM Northwest posted a 1-8 record last season, but returns several linemen on both sides of the ball along with quarterback Spencer Stewart and receiver Hayden Goodpaster.
“They throw and catch the ball really well,” Wedd said of the Cougars. “They’ve come a long ways. It’s going to be a dogfight for us all year from game to game.”
Wedd, who plans to retire at the end of the year, owns 99 career wins as the head coach at LHS. With a victory, he’d become the school’s third coach since 1940 to reach 100 wins, joining Al Woolard and Bill Freeman.
“First off, it shouldn’t have taken that long at a great school like this to get to 100,” Wedd said. “It’s not important. It’s about the kids. It’s about us playing well and having a good season. That’s all I worry about and that’s all I care about.”
LHS probable starters
LT — Brayden Liakos, jr.
LG — Nick Englebert, sr.
C — Jacob Mills, sr.
RG — Bailey Greer, sr.
RT — Bryce Tibke, jr.
QB — Garrett Romero, jr.
RB — Hunter Krom, sr.
WR — Ekow Boye-Doe, sr.
WR — Jalen Dudley, sr.
WR — Brett Chapple, jr.
WR — Bryson Cummins, jr.
K — Ross Brungardt, jr.
P — Jalen Dudley, sr.
DE — Eric Galbreath, jr.
DT — Nick Miller, jr.
DT — EJ Jewsom, jr.
DE — Sam Bart, jr.
LB — Ja’Relle Dye, sr.
LB — Chris Boyd, sr.
LB — Caleb Mondi, jr.
CB — Ekow Boye-Doe, sr.
CB — DeShon Lewis, so.
SS — Jakoby Masters, jr.
FS — Harrison King, sr.