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Showdown Countdown — 13 days


The hype has been suppressed for long enough.

It's time to talk about just how good the football teams are this season at Lawrence High and Free State High. Years from now, city sports fans will reminisce about 2012 and the amazing players that represented Lawrence.

If you've been lucky enough to see both the Lions (6-1) and Firebirds (6-1) play this season, you probably already know this, so you can just jump ahead farther down in the blog:

• Lawrence and Free State are two of the best teams in not only the Sunflower League, but also the state

• Both should be favored to advance to the playoffs out of District 1 — especially after Friday, with Free State's 49-6 win and Lawrence's 46-26 win

• The 2012 city showdown — regular-season finale, Oct. 26 at LHS — is going to be an absolute classic battle

We're now just 13 days away from the 2012 version of the rivalry game, and because each team has another district game to play before they meet, we know nobody from either side is going to talk about the game before it's the next one on the schedule.

This is the most FSHS lineman Cody Stanclift was willing to divulge a few days before the Firebirds' victory over Wyandotte: "If we win both games, and I'm sure they'll win both games, it'll be a big game to finish the regular season on."

That doesn't mean those of us outside of the programs can't start pondering what will be on display. Here are some key aspects of the game to consider:

Can Free State's defense find a way to shut down LHS senior quarterback Brad Strauss and receivers Erick Mayo, Drake Hofer, Will Thompson and Josh Seybert? The only thing that has seemed to affect Strauss so far has been rain, which made the football difficult to grip on Friday vs. Leavenworth. And guess what. Strauss still completed 17 of 25 passes for 179 yards, 2 TDs and no interceptions. But Free State's secondary, with Kyle McFarland, Demarko Bobo and Joe Dineen, will be the best Strauss and the Lions have faced this season.

On that note, how does Lawrence's offensive line handle the pressure Free State's linemen and backers are capable of unloading? The Firebirds defense has reached another level the last few weeks and that has a lot to do with the work up front by linemen Stanclift, Riley Buller and Fred Wyatt, as well as linebackers Corban Schmidt, Keith Loneker and Blake Winslow. They've been all over opposing QBs and surely want to do the same against LHS.

Who will make a game-changing play on special teams? On kickoffs and punt returns, Hofer, Mayo and Strauss are big weapons, but nobody in the league might be better than Free State's Tye Hughes, who has two TD punt returns. And one of the best special teams plays I've seen all year came from Free State's Zach Bickling and Dineen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIKOR5...

How does the LHS defense, which has surrendered a lot of yards on the ground at times, contain Free State's rushing options? McFarland can run the ball from the quarterback position or hand it off to TJ Cobbs or Bobo. Every once in a while, Dineen lines up at RB, too. The Lions will need their more than capable linemen Kharon Brown, Cole Cummins and Seybert, as well as linebackers Drew Green, Jordan Brown, Kieran Severa and company to bottle up the FSHS rushers.

What else does everybody think about the game? What would you like to discuss in future blogs leading up to the city showdown?

Also, if you have youtube clips of highlights for either team, email them to me at basmith@ljworld.com or post links in the comments section and I'll put them all together in a blog before it's game time.


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