LHS to face SM South without head coach; Free State looking to stay hot
The Lawrence High football team will be without its head coach on Friday as it tries to get back on the winning track at home against Shawnee Mission South.
First-year LHS coach Clint Bowen has been suspended one game by the Kansas State High School Activities Association after being ejected during last week’s 40-24 loss at Shawnee Mission Northwest.
Despite not being able to coach, Bowen will be allowed to attend this week’s game and sit in the stands because he is the father of one of the LHS players, receiver Baylor Bowen.
With the Lions’ leader sidelined, defensive coordinator Jeffrey Lyster will serve as the acting head coach.
LHS (3-2) has lost two in a row after starting the season 3-0, but Clint Bowen said his absence shouldn’t be a distraction for the Lions’ homecoming game.
“Our players are continuing to work hard and maintain their focus on effort,” he said. “I think they’re taking the opportunity to learn from the past two weeks of what happens when you don’t have the preparation that it requires to win a Friday night varsity football game.”
SM South (1-4) will arrive in Lawrence fresh off a tough loss to SM East last week, and Clint Bowen said the focus this week has been on preparing for the Raiders’ unpredictable offense.
South is led by senior quarterback Mason Close, who has proven he can find ways to move the chains under pressure.
“Their quarterback is a good player,” Clint Bowen said. “He does a nice job of throwing the ball and running when he scrambles. Paying attention to him will be a big one. They have a big wide receiver that is capable of going up and making a play. We’ve got to control the line of scrimmage.”
LHS built a reputation for striking quickly earlier this season, but the Lions’ offense has struggled to keep that up lately.
“We’ve got to come out fast,” Clint Bowen said. “Last week we got an unfortunate incident” — a fumbled kick-off — “so we found ourselves in the first possession minus one. We have to avoid special teams miscues to give us the field position to get started fast on offense.”
Entering Week 6 with back-to-back losses may have not been the position Clint Bowen expected to be in, but he’s using the opportunity to preach resilience.
“We talked about the team continuing to stay together,” he said. “Maintaining their focus and our belief in what we’re doing. We have the talent and we have players here that can make plays. We’ve just got to trust each other, trust the process and when we get the opportunity to play, go make it happen.”
Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. at LHS.
Firebirds hope to stay hot
Riding high after a 41-20 win over previously unbeaten Mill Valley last week, the Free State football team will try to extend its two-game winning streak at 7 p.m. Friday night against Olathe South at Olathe District Activity Center.
“Last week, the guys had a lot of energy,” FSHS coach Kevin Stewart said. “We should be excited and enthusiastic no matter who we play. The way our guys played last Friday, we could beat a lot of teams.”
The Firebirds (4-1) are still looking to tighten up their defensive principles, and Stewart said he wanted his team to strive for a complete game, with good effort and execution all four quarters.
All of that will be important this week against Olathe South (3-2), which has a potentially explosive offense.
“Offensively, they spread the ball out pretty good,” Stewart said. “We’ve got to cover well and tackle in space, and we can’t give up big chunk plays and touchdowns over the top.”
In addition to his defense preventing big plays, Stewart would like to see a few more highlight plays from his offense.
Senior QB Jet Dineen finished 10-of-14 through the air last week, but Stewart said he thinks the offense can do even more with its passing game, especially in terms of consistency.
“I would like to see Jet take a few more shots,” Stewart said. “We’ve got some receivers that will go up and get the ball. I think if we can get a few more chunk plays, that will help us get more points on the board.”
With the end of the regular season approaching, Stewart said it was important to maintain intensity down the stretch.
“The guys are starting to get excited and have more intensity about the way they are playing the game,” he said. “We can’t take a step back.”