Lions plan to focus on fundamentals during bye week ahead of 6A quarterfinals

Lawrence High linebacker Cole Mondi forces a fumble from Wichita North quarterback Jacob Wassall during the first quarter on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020 at Lawrence High School. (Photo by Nick Krug)

Lawrence High’s football team doesn’t have a game this week because its second-round playoff opponent forfeited, but that doesn’t mean the Lions are taking a week off.

In fact, the team only rested for a single day.

Coach Steve Rampy gave his players the day off on Monday after he told them that Dodge City was forfeiting this week’s regional matchup because of an increase in COVID-19 cases on its roster. But now it’s back to work for the Lions, who are set to face their biggest test of the playoffs soon — a matchup against either No. 4 Derby (5-2) or No. 5 Gardner Edgerton (5-2) in the Class 6A quarterfinals.

Derby, a team ranked No. 3 in Class 6A, has won four state titles since 2015, including consecutive crowns in each of the last two years. The Lions suffered a 41-7 loss to the Panthers in the opening round of the 2018 postseason during Rampy’s first year at the helm.

“The fact of the matter is that we advanced to the final eight,” said Rampy, whose team is the No. 1 team in Class 6A West. “We have to get ready to play the winner of the Derby-Gardner game, and it is going to be a big game.”

The fact that LHS doesn’t have to play a game on Friday gives the Lions some time to get back to basics. Rampy said Lawrence will focus on tune-ups that it doesn’t normally have the chance to do — a day dedicated to just special teams, for example.

“We are just going to focus on overall team fundamentals,” Rampy said. “We are not going to be as intense out there this week. I told the staff that we don’t want to peak this week. We just have to go be teachers and try to get some things done that make us better.”

Lawrence will have a lighter practice on Friday, which would normally be a game day. The team will then start actually preparing for its next opponent — whether it is Derby or Gardner Edgerton — on Saturday.

“The challenge now is to still come into practice with a focus on getting better without a goal at the end of the week,” Rampy said. “That is the reality of it. Even though we don’t have anyone to play on Friday, we can still get better every day.”

The matchup against Dodge City was the second game of the Lions’ 2020 season to be interrupted by COVID-19. In late September, it was the Lions who were in quarantine, and they missed a marquee matchup with Mill Valley.

Lawrence and Dodge City, which were slated to square off at LHS at 7 p.m. Friday, were both coming off lopsided victories in the opening round of the postseason.

The Lions rolled to a 66-6 victory over Wichita North last week, and Dodge City, the No. 9 seed, earned a 39-0 victory over No. 8 Topeka High. The Red Demons finished the year with a 4-6 overall record, and they were one of only two 6A schools in the state to play an entire regular season.

Rampy is doing his best not to let the unexpected cancellation affect the team’s work.

“We can’t sit around and talk about how disappointed we are that we didn’t get to play,” Rampy said on Tuesday. “Throughout this whole process, from last March on, we have had to handle the things that you can handle.”


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