Restoring the roar

Nick Smith/PrepsKC

By David Svoboda PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: October 14, 2011 - 11:35 PM

Lawrence rode dual-threat quarterback Brad Strauss and an inspired defense to a 28-19 road win at Olathe North in the Class 6A district opener for both schools.

The Chesty Lions, 5-2 and 1-0, fell behind early 6-0, but grabbed the lead after the first of Strauss’ three TD passes and never again trailed. North, 5-2 and 0-1, fell for the second-straight week in disappointing fashion.

As good as Strauss was – 14-of 22 passing for 184 yards and the aforementioned three scores…and a rushing TD – it was the Lion defense that drew most of the praise from Lawrence Coach Dirk Wedd.

“Our defense really stepped up in the second half,” said Wedd, whose team downed a North squad for the first time since 2005. “They played so hard and so well.”

Indeed, for the second straight week at home, North fought an inspired defense and itself in going down to defeat. Though running back Orange Mooney had 101 yards on 21 carries, and QB Jordan Bruce and wide receiver Tanner Gentry hooked up for 161 yards and three TDs of their own through the air, it was another set of statistics that absolutely killed North – those involving penalties and turnovers.

Bruce threw two interceptions, both late in the game with his team down by two scores and needing a big play. But as he scrambled for his life in the attempt to come up big, his mates made it difficult for North to mount a comeback.

After a Bruce to Gentry TD strike cut the Lawrence lead to 21-19 with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter, North did everything it could to keep itself from winning – and indeed failed to score over the game’s final 19 minutes.

Included in the rough stretch were a missed field goal, a fumble, five penalties and the two Bruce INTs.
Give Lawrence some credit, however, as the Chesty Lions traded blows with North, which has been in the last two Kansas Class 6A title games.

“We felt like we were going to get their best shot, and we did,” Wedd said.

Lawrence was the team fighting from a position of offensive strength for most of the night, however.
Bruce hit Gentry with a 36-yard, over the shoulder strike for six to give North an early 6-0 edge after a mishandle of the PAT snap.

Lawrence’s answer was Strauss’ first TD throw of the night, this one to Anthony Buffalomeat from six yards out to make it 7-6 Lawrence. The Lions led on “every judge’s score card” for the rest of the night.

North had a shot in the ensuing drive to regain the lead, but Jorge Rivero missed a 28-yard field goal attempt.

Three plays later, and sparked by a 66-yard run by Tyrone Jenkins, Lawrence was again in the end zone, this time on a 15-yard pass from Strauss to Drake Hofer to make it 14-6.

In the next Olathe North possession, faced with a 3rd and 26, North’s Bruce and Mooney failed to connect on a handoff, and Lawrence recovered on the Eagle 23. It took Lawrence the full four downs to score, but on 4th and eight from the 21, Strauss hit Erick Mayo with a TD pass that all but emptied the wind from the Eagle sails.

And it was still three minutes before halftime.

North pulled to within 21-12 at the half on the second Bruce to Gentry TD to put the second half theatrics into motion.

And as impressive as Gentry was for North, Wedd was mighty proud of Buffalomeat, Hofer and Mayo, all three of whom had great nights of their own.

“We have three receivers in the top 10 in our conference,” he said. “And all three caught balls in big situations tonight.”

But it was Strauss, who made good decisions and was careful with the ball all night long, who sparked the Lion attack.

“He’s just a very intelligent football player,” Wedd said of his 6-foot signal caller, who was also returning kicks for the Lions.

But it was his coach, who was kissing and hugging nearly anyone wearing red and black on the sideline after the contest, who got the biggest “kick” out of the outcome.