Looking back at the regular season, Lawrence High’s football players and coaches believe their five-point loss to Olathe North was a game that slipped away.
The Lions will have their chance to avenge that loss at 7 p.m. today at Olathe District Activity Center in the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. The Eagles (6-3) are on a five-game winning streak, which started with their 33-28 win over Lawrence on Sept. 29.
“Honestly I just think we made a couple of plays that beat ourselves,” senior linebacker Ja’Relle Dye said. “We just didn’t come out and play like we should have.”
The Lions (5-4) are encouraged by their defense in the past month. In addition to gaining more experience, they’ve had some players take snaps on both sides of the ball.
Senior Jalen Dudley has joined the secondary at cornerback, along with playing receiver, and senior left tackle Kristian Russell adds size on the defensive line. Quarterback Dante Jackson will play some snaps at free safety.
“It feels great, honestly, to play both sides of the ball,” Dudley said. “Being on the sideline during defense, I felt like I couldn’t do anything to change the game. I feel like I can now with the opportunity to be on both sides.”
Dudley said he asked coaches all season to let him play in the secondary. He used to play safety when he was younger, so it’s a little bit of a new position for him, but he feels comfortable lining up on defense.
“Our platoon system is going out the window, but the seniors want to play and they want to win,” Lawrence coach Dirk Wedd said. “We’re putting them in situations where we’re trying to give our team the best chance to win.”
Lawrence players are confident that their experience against O-North’s offense will only help them. The Eagles feature a strong rushing attack with multiple players lining up at quarterback and a heavy dose of fake handoffs and reverses.
Olathe North junior Daymonn Sanchez leads the team with 628 rushing yards and five touchdowns, while freshman Arland Bruce has 574 yards and four scores. Both players surpassed 100 yards against LHS in September.
“That’s a big key for this week: stopping the run,” Dye said. “Everyone reading their keys, reading draws, reading those pulls.”
Wedd added: “They’ve got athletes. Not very many people are as fast as we are, but these guys definitely have great team speed.”
With the win-or-go-home nature of the postseason, Dye said there’s added intensity during practices this week. But there’s a level of excitement knowing they have a chance to make up for one of their previous losses.
“It’s going to be a tough game at their house,” Wedd said, “but Lawrence High-Olathe North, that’s a great rivalry.”
LHS probable starters
LT — Kristian Russell, sr.
LG — Nick Englebert, sr.
C — Jacob Mills, sr.
RG — John Ely, sr.
RT — Bryce Tibke, jr.
QB — Dante Jackson, sr.
RB — Angel Garcia, sr.
WR — Ekow Boye-Doe, sr.
WR — Jalen Dudley, sr.
WR — Brett Chapple, jr.
WR — Bryson Cummins, jr.
K — Ross Brungardt, jr.
P — Dante Jackson, sr.
DE — Nick Miller, jr.
DT — Tim Vongphachanh, sr.
DT — EJ Jewsome, jr.
DE — Sam Bart, jr.
LB — Ja’Relle Dye, sr.
LB — Cole Mondi, fr.
LB — Caleb Mondi, jr.
CB — Ekow Boye-Doe, sr.
CB — Jalen Dudley, sr.
SS — Deshon Lewis, so.
FS — Harrison King, sr.