Preps notebook: Dominant defensive line sets the tone for Lawrence High football
photo by: Ashley Golledge
Across the board, Lawrence High’s football team has plenty of experience at every position. It has been the key to the team’s 4-0 start to 2020, despite having to overcome plenty of adversity while playing during a pandemic.
But arguably the most-experienced and most-talented position unit is the one that rarely gets noticed. Four seniors — Dylan Gillespie, Teagan Flynn, Trevor Baars and Preston Greenwood — really set the tone for Lawrence (No. 1 in Class 6A) along the defensive line.
Ahead of a marquee matchup with St. Thomas Aquinas (4-0, No. 1 in Class 5A), all four players were asked to describe the defensive line as a unit. And one word came to mind for the entire quartet.
“Dominant,” Baars said. “I feel like what makes us so dominant is the way we go at each other at practice. We are all competitors.”
It is hard to argue with that description, especially after the defensive line essentially clinched a 37-28 win over Bishop Carroll last weekend in Lawrence’s first game back from a two-week quarantine.
On the second-to-last possession of the game, the Lions came through with a pair of sacks to put the finishing touch on their most-impressive win yet. Flynn and Gillespie combined for a sack on first down, while Greenwood delivered a solo sack on third-and-long to force a punt.
It is a sequence that the d-line admitted has been their favorite part of the season so far.
“If we get a sack, it puts the offense behind,” said Greenwood, who leads the team with 4.5 sacks through four games. “It is huge.”
Yet the defensive line came through well before that drive. Bishop Caroll pulled within 2 points early in the third quarter, but the LHS defense delivered stops when the team needed it the most.
The Lions recovered a pair of fumbles, including one scooped up by Gillespie, to halt any momentum by the Golden Eagles in the second half. Both turnovers led to huge celebrations by the LHS defense, especially when Gillespie recovered a fumble.
“We feed off each other with our energy,” Flynn said. “It just makes us that much better.”
But that’s just one of the many reasons why the defensive line unit is so special.
“Personally, I think we have the most fun out on the field,” Gillespie said. “We do our job and we have fun doing it.”
Part of that comes from these four seniors being together since they started playing football. Greenwood switched from linebacker to defensive line at the start of last year, but otherwise this unit has been forming this bond over the last four seasons.
The four defensive linemen will constantly go up against each other in practice and have a lot of fun in the process. They are always paired up together in the weight room, in which defensive coordinator Jeff Lyster noted that they had the best attendance this past offseason among any position group.
“They are friends,” Lyster said. “When you have a strong relationship with the guy next to you, to not give your best — they know that is unacceptable. They hold each other to that a lot, and I think that’s friendship.”
While that strong bond has been key, a friendly competition has also fueled the defensive line.
All four players are battling it out to see who can be the team’s sack champion. As of right now, Greenwood leads in that department with 4.5 sacks. Only bragging rights are on the line, but it is a competition that has motivated the entire unit this year.
“Iron sharpens iron,” said assistant Blake Mudd, who is in his second year coaching the defensive line. “I like that they compete against each other, as long as it is a positive thing. They do it in the right way.”
Greenwood might be leading the way in sacks through four games, but all four players have performed very well this year. Gillespie is quick at the snap and physical at the point of attack. Baars bullies opposing offensive lines even though he often has to push through double-team blocks.
Flynn is fast off the edge, but can also use his power when necessary.
“They do their job and they know their role,” Mudd said. “We’ve done alright. We have been able to make adjustments when we need to. The biggest thing is we have to consistently do our job.”
Lawrence High’s defensive line will be put to the test against a talented St. Thomas Aquinas team that has lost just once since the start of the 2018 season. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. Friday at St. Thomas Aquinas.
Kaws overcome adversity during 5-0 start
On the surface, it looks like a standard start to the season for a Perry-Lecompton football squad coming off a runner-up finish in Class 3A. The Kaws are 5-0, and have won every game by at least two touchdowns.
But PLHS (No. 2 in Class 3A) has had to overcome plenty of adversity already this year. For starters, the team didn’t even know if the 2020 season was going to happen when players were preparing in the summer.
There have also been schedule changes, which included adding a rare trip to Winfield last week when the team’s original opponent fell through. Perry-Lecompton earned a 41-13 win in Week 5 and has now outscored its five opponents by a total of 201 points on the year.
Most of all, the last two-and-half wins have come without Perry-Lecompton’s starting quarterback. Senior William Welch sustained a knee injury at Holton in Week 3, which forced senior running back Thad Metcalfe to take over as the team’s signal caller.
Metcalfe responded to the challenge, lifting the Kaws to a 28-14 win in their toughest test of the season. Metcalfe has been the starting quarterback over the previous two games, as well.
“They do what they do, which is handle adversity,” PLHS head coach Mike Paramore said. “They believe in Thad, he jumped in two games last year. Now that he’s had a chance to actually rep as a quarterback in practice, we have total confidence in what he can do.”
Paramore said that Welch will be out for the remainder of the season after having surgery last Friday, so Metcalfe will stay under center for the Kaws.
Metcalfe can still be used as a runner, but he’s made strides as a passer now that he’s getting every single rep at quarterback. For the season, Metcalfe is 21-for-36 through the air for 376 yards and four scores. He also has 565 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 66 attempts.
“We tweaked a little bit,” Paramore said. “We still feel like we have some great playmakers on the outside, we don’t want to totally change what we are doing. We have to be able to get the ball in their hands to be as dangerous of a football team as we can be.”
Junior Reichen Rush has stepped right in as the starting running back, too. He has 411 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Senior receivers Parker Stone (242 receiving yards and three touchdowns) and Cadon Quinlan (222 yards, two scores) are leading the way through the air.
Perry-Lecompton’s defense has held opposing offenses to a total of 40 points through five games. Senior Ryley Besler has 55 total tackles to lead the unit in that department. Seniors Jaxson Folks and Hayden Robb have 49 and 46 stops, respectively, on the year.
PLHS will play host to Osawatomie (0-5) on Friday.
“We want to go out and practice and get better,” Paramore said. “If we go out and every rep we get better, every drill we get better, the things on Friday nights will take care of themselves.”