Strong start vital to football success
As the first day of football practice came to a close Monday, Lansing High seniors Lance Fink and Matt Warner weren't happy.
The Lions ended practice with conditioning drills and running. Most of the players finished their final laps on the hop, but a few stopped to walk.
Warner barked at them to finish strong. Fink shook his head.
Both seniors agreed walking is unacceptable if the Lions are going to be rougher, tougher and all-around better than in 2004 when they posted an 8-3 record and advanced to the regional playoffs.
"This is another part of going farther in the season," Fink said. "If I'm busting my butt, I want everyone else to because they're expecting the same thing from me."
Hard work was the mantra for most of the Lions during the summer as they packed the LHS weight room in preparation for the season. Fink, Warner and fellow senior Logan Ryan - all returning starters - didn't miss a single day of weights. Neither did sophomore Stephen Didde. Numerous others only missed two or three sessions.
The success from a year ago was the driving force behind the Lions' tougher summer training, Warner said.
"I think the winning season last year had an impact on that," he said. "I think that's what made everyone want to come out and lift weights and work out. I just want to be better than last year."
Last year the Lions found out the hard way the importance of being bigger and stronger when Holton pounded them 69-22 in the regional playoffs. The Wildcats hit harder, ran faster and left the Lions battered and bruised. The loss showed the Lions exactly where they needed to improve in order to take another step forward in 2005.
Another area Lansing needed to improve on was its early-season preparation. LHS coach Bill Pekarek said his squad didn't have enough of its offense in place for its first two games last season against Tonganoxie and Mill Valley - both losses. That's why he's extending two-a-day workouts into early next week.
"One of our goals is we need to do a better job of playing (early)," Pekarek aid. "We haven't won our opening ball game in three years, so we want to get off to a better start and do a better job on that."
The Lions will open their season at 7 p.m. Sept. 2 at home against Tonganoxie. The Chieftains upended LHS 26-8 in the opener a year ago when the Lions generated just 33 yards of total offense.
"Tongie's been on my mind since the end of last season," Warner said. "It really got to me. We all had a horrible game. Especially I did. Hopefully we wont even be the same team this time. I'm hoping that they're just blown away by us. Last year they blew us away."
Fink said the Lions have put in all of the proper preparation to have a better start this season. He said they also have been driven by the higher expectations that the community has for the football team this year.
"I know a lot of people in the community are looking forward to us playing because a lot of people followed us last year and we kind of made a name for ourselves," he said. "Now people are just looking out to see what we can do. There's some pressure from that, but I think in a way that helps push us. There's weight on our shoulders, but if there wasn't any weight then we wouldn't be working as hard out here on the field and in the weight room."
- Numbers are up for the football team this year. After starting the 2004 season with 73 players, the total roster dipped into the mid-60s by the end of the year. The Lions open the 2005 season with 80 players on the roster.
"We've got 80 guys out and we're pretty proud of that," Pekarek said. "We'd like to keep 80 and maybe even gain a few more. We have over 20 seniors. We've got a good little nucleus of juniors and pretty good group of sophomores."
- Metro Sports reporter Erin Bajackson stopped by football practice on Monday afternoon to film a segment for Metro Sports' high school football kickoff show. The show is scheduled to air later this month. Check out lansingcurrent.com next week to find out when the segment will air.
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