After strong showing in Week 1, Lawrence defense believes it can do even better
photo by: Carter Gaskins
Some might be surprised by Lawrence High’s defensive performance in the season opener, but not head coach Steve Rampy.
Even though the Lions are replacing some of their top players from a defense that shined in 2018, Rampy had plenty of reason for optimism entering this season. For one, many sophomores that saw action for the first time last year were expected to take a leap. The defense also has a lot of speed, particularly at linebacker.
And Rampy had complete faith that assistants Jeff Lyster, Jamie Resseguie and Jeff Colter would revamp things on that side of the ball.
“We like our defense a lot,” Rampy said. “I think the difference is that we can line up and do some things on offense against them in practice. Last year, we didn’t do much against our defense when we wanted to play.”
LHS held Olathe South to just 21 points during its win in the season opener. The Lions only did that twice last fall, as they gave up an average of 27.2 points per game during their 1-8 campaign in the first year under Rampy.
The Lions forced three turnovers against the Falcons last week, two of which resulted in defensive scores. Tre’ Jackson has a 27-yard interception return early in the fourth quarter to give LHS a 17-14 advantage.
Seven minutes later, junior Corban Oberzan scored on a 48-yard fumble recovery to put the game out of reach. Oberzan, who was moved to safety after playing linebacker last year, also had an interception.
“I think everyone has settled in really well,” Oberzan said. “I feel like we did great. There are some things that we need to fix, but we showed some great things (like) getting to the ball together and backing each other up.”
Most of last week’s miscues were a result of multiple LHS players, like Oberzan, getting used to a new role. Despite all of that, though, Lawrence held Olathe South to just 4.6 yards per play. The Falcons, who went 5-5 in 2018, even had 10 different plays result in negative yards.
“We are all just swarming to the ball,” senior outside linebacker Cole Morris said. “That 1-8 (record) really put a dent in us, and we were just thinking about that the whole summer. That really got us going.”
Morris, who has been playing at the varsity level since his sophomore season, is leading an athletic linebacker unit for the Lions. Senior Austin Hollins is manning the other outside linebacker spot after playing running back last year. Juniors Cole Mondi and Karson Green are holding things down on the inside.
After playing multiple fronts last season, Lawrence is mostly operating out of a three-man front this year. Senior Nick Ray, who played tight end last season, and junior Teagan Flynn are containing the edge at the two defensive end spots. Junior Dylan Gillespie is clogging up the middle at nose tackle.
“I have to read both a-gaps, it is a little bit different,” Gillespie said. “Now I have to lead up front for the younger guys.”
It certainly helps that the Lions also have plenty of playmakers in the secondary. Senior cornerbacks Dre’ Bridges and Deshon Lewis, along with Kallun Chitama and Oberzan at safety, kept Olathe South to just 100 passing yards in the first game.
Yet the Lions believe the entire defense is capable of doing even better, starting as early as this week during a Thursday night matchup with Shawnee Mission East. The Lancers averaged over 30 points per contest during an 8-3 clip last fall.
“We need to eliminate the mistakes,” Ray said. “We played really well. But if we eliminate the little things that we messed up on, we can be great.”
Lawrence (1-0) will take on Shawnee Mission East (0-1) at Shawnee Mission North stadium at 7 p.m. Thursday.
LHS probable starters
QB — Jackson Dooley, jr.; RB — Devin Neal, jr.; WR — Chris McGee, sr.; WR — Deshon Lewis, sr.; WR — Ben King, jr.; WR — Tre’ Jackson, jr.; LT — Noah Smith, so.; LG — Acen Villegas, so.; C — Porter Dannevik, jr.; RG — Lane Luna, jr.; RT — Drew Meyer, jr.
DE — Nick Ray, sr.; NG — Dylan Gillespie, jr.; DE Teagan Flynn, jr.; OLB — Austin Hollins, sr.; OLB — Cole Morris, sr.; ILB — Cole Mondi, jr.; ILB — Karson Green, jr.; CB — Deshon Lewis, sr.; CB — Dre Bridges, sr.; FS — Corbin Oberzan, jr.; SS — Kallun Chitama, jr.; Kicker/punter — Connor Gellender, jr.