Kaws clip Lions
LHS makes big plays, but mistakes prove costly in loss
The Lansing High football team made more big plays than should have been necessary to win its football game Friday night against Perry-Lecompton.
The Lions also made every big penalty, mistake and turnover, though. That proved to be the difference in a 21-13 loss at Frank Graham Field.
Lansing forced five turnovers, received a steady flow of big kickoff returns from senior Cameron Schiller, started almost every drive with favorable field position and blocked a punt for a touchdown. LHS had four turnovers of its own, however. The Lions' troubles were compounded because the defense was unable to contain the option and the offensive line continued to struggle to develop continuity. Seven penalties for 50 yards didn't help the cause either.
In a way, the Lions were like a seesaw. They had so many highlights and so many mishaps, but they struggled to be consistent.
"There's some good plays off and on throughout the game," LHS coach Bill Pekarek said. "It's just the consistency isn't there. We made some silly errors. We ran into the kicker. There were times where a guy lines up in the wrong position : we got a motion penalty : we're kind of shooting ourselves in the foot sometimes."
Lansing (0-2 overall, 0-2 Kaw Valley League) made a concerted effort to establish the running game early. Five of its six plays on its first possession were rushing plays. Two of the four plays on the next possession also were on the ground. Both possessions ended in punts, however.
Meanwhile, Perry took the lead on its second possession of the game. The first play of the drive was favorable for Lansing as junior Justin Smith drilled Shane Gimzo for a six-yard loss. A series of option plays and runs up the gut were big for the Kaws, though. The Lions' defense missed assignments and whiffed on tackles as the Kaws rattled off a seven-play, 81-yard drive that was capped by Gimzo's 10-yard touchdown run up the middle. The extra point failed, but the Kaws led 6-0.
Lansing looked poised to strike back on the ensuing possession. Schiller returned the kickoff 34 yards to midfield, but senior Daniel Eyerly fumbled on the first play from scrimmage and Perry's Robby Martins recovered it.
LHS forced Perry into a three-and-out on the next possession, but the Lions promptly turned the ball over again as the result of a bad snap. The Kaws recovered the ball on the 15-yard-line and scored four plays later. They converted the two-point conversion and took a 14-0 lead with 7:42 left in the second quarter.
Lansing started its next drive near midfield again thanks to a 23-yard kickoff return by Schiller. Senior quarterback J.T. Collins completed a series of passes on the run, but most of the plays were wasted because of three penalties and three bad snaps. The drive ended with another turnover as Collins threw an interception under heavy pressure.
Fortunately for the Lions, they didn't allow their three first-half turnovers to rattle their spirits. Instead, the defense rose to the occasion in the final minutes of the half. Chris Hill buried the Kaws at the six-yard-line thanks to a nice punt. The defense then forced a three-and-out. When the Kaws tried to punt with 33 seconds left in the half, Kyle Grape and Brad Terron stormed up the middle, disrupted the play and knocked a blocker into the punter as he was about to kick the ball. The football squirted into the end zone, and Smith was there to pounce on it for a touchdown.
"I knew that ball was going to be blocked," Smith said. "Brad Terron, the monster of a kid that he is, and Kyle Grape with his speed : My first thought when I went through the line was 'Where's the ball?' I knew Brad was going to get in there."
Terron kicked the extra point, and it was clear the momentum was shifting.
"We were fired up when that happened," Terron said of the block and ensuing touchdown. "It was right before halftime. It was what we needed."
The Lions returned from the locker room energized and refocused. On the second play of the third quarter, Terron forced a fumble and Joe Kohl recovered it on the Perry 44-yard-line. The Lions drove all the way to the 33-yard-line, but a sack and a delay-of-game penalty led to a punt. Hill booted another solid punt and pinned the Kaws on their own seven-yard-line. The defense did its part by forcing another three-and-out, and then the Lions put together an eight-play, 32-yard scoring drive that was capped by a seven-yard touchdown run by Kyle Grape. Terron's extra point was blocked, however, and the Kaws clung to a 14-13 lead.
Lansing's David Dickson stripped the Perry return man on the ensuing kickoff. Hill dove to the bottom of the pile and came up with the ball. That gave LHS excellent field position just 31 yards from the end zone. An offensive pass interference call backed up the Lions, however, and they failed to capitalize on the premium field position.
Hill continued his solid punting performance by pinning Perry on its own seven-yard-line. The defense then held strong until third-and-long. Quarterback Caleb Denton rolled out and hit wide receiver Brian Hastert for a 72-yard gain down the sideline. Brent Garrison scored on an 18-yard run on the next play. The extra point gave the Kaws a 21-13 lead with 10:10 left in the fourth quarter.
Trailing by eight points, the Lions had a few more highs and lows to go.
Lansing went three-and-out on its next possession. The Lions were flagged for running into the return man on a fair catch on the punt, but the penalty wasn't damaging because the Kaws turned it over three plays later when Bobby Hauver recovered a fumble. The Lions put together a 13-play drive to the five-yard-line before Collins threw an interception in the endzone on fourth down.
LHS never gave up, though. Terron hit Denton for a five-yard loss on first down. The defense stuffed the run on second down. Then Joe Kohl picked off a pass and gave Lansing the ball on the Perry 18-yard-line with 2:56 left.
"We just didn't want to give up," Terron said.
The Lions were unable to pick up a first down, though. The Kaws got the ball back with 1:55 remaining and ran out the clock.
The Lions' defense appeared to develop a bit of a swagger during the second half. It wasn't perfect during the final 24 minutes, but it was more aggressive, and - as Pekarek likes to say - "won the hitting game" during the final two quarters. Still, Pekarek said the defense needs to do a better job stopping the option. That's something the Lions didn't have trouble doing in previous seasons.
The most glaring problem areas for LHS are on the offensive side of the ball. The Lions continue to struggle with the running game - they have just 59 yards rushing in the first two games combined. Receivers continue to drop balls. Perhaps the most inconsistent play is on the offensive line, though. The line has dealt with both youth and injuries, and Pekarek said no starting positions are locked up.
"There's some of us that are younger, so they're still learning," said senior lineman Peter Willcott, a three-year starter and the only returning starter on the line. "This week they were just put in, and tonight was just one of those nights. People have got to look at their scouting reports better and learn their stuff better so they're confident in their blocking. Coach has put on the scouting report that nothing is set in stone until he finds who he wants."
At 0-2, Lansing is in the same spot it was after two games during the 2004 season. That year, LHS went on to post an 8-3 record and advanced to the regional championship game in the Class 4A state playoffs.
Lansing will have a tough time defending its Kaw Valley League championship this season, but the Lions still have a chance to win a district championship for the third straight year. District games are the last three games of the regular season, and those games determine what teams advance to the state playoffs. That's something Smith said he and his teammates have not lost track of.
"We just don't want to make the whole Kaw Valley think that we're out of it," Smith said. "We might be out of the (league) race, but seasons aren't made until those last three games (in district play). Everybody starts 0-0 then, and that's what we're working toward."
Lansing returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday when it plays host to Santa Fe Trail. The Lansing Booster Club will play host to a pregame tailgate beginning at 5 p.m.
- The Lansing offense struggled for the second straight game. After rushing for just 15 yards on 18 carries in the season-opener against Tonganoxie, LHS had 38 carries for 44 yards against Perry. Kyle Grape led the way with 43 yards on 15 carries.
- Senior quarterback J.T. Collins completed seven of 18 passes for 91 yards.
- Joe Kohl was Lansing's top receiver for the second straight game. He caught three passes for 34 yards. Stephen Didde caught two passes for 36 yards. Daniel Eyerly caught two passes for 21 yards.
- Senior Cameron Schiller had a big game returning kickoffs. He returned four kicks with an average of 20.75 yards per return.
- Junior David Dickson recorded a team-high 12 tackles. Senior Joe Kohl added 11 tackles to go along with an interception and a fumble recovery.
- J.T. Collins was sacked four times by the Perry defense.