Four football players make college commitments
Thursday was a big day for one of the most talent-laden senior classes in Lansing High football history as four Lions signed their national letters-of-intent to play college football.
Seniors Justin Smith and Mycol Bowen will play at Coffeyville Community College, and seniors Brendan Becker and Brad Terron will be teammates at Fort Scott Community College.
Both schools compete in the Jayhawk Conference, arguably the nation's top junior college football conference.
"We're real proud of them," LHS coach Bill Pekarek said. "We had 11 seniors this year, and I think eight of them are going to go somewhere and play football. We're excited about that. It's good for our program, and we hope they go out and have a lot of success in the next four years wherever they're playing."
All four seniors played critical roles in an 8-2 season this season when Lansing won the Kaw Valley League and Class 5A district 1 championships. LHS also advanced to the state playoffs for the fourth straight year.
Smith was the most decorated member of the senior class, and he also was Lansing's top playmaker. He was a first-team selection to the All-KVL and multiple All-State teams, and he also earned second-team All-Metro status from The Kansas City Star. He was a big-play receiver for the Lions (13 catches, team-high 378 yards, 29.1-yard-per-catch average), but he did the most damage on defense as a strong safety. His 85 tackles ranked third on the team, and he returned two interceptions for touchdowns.
Out of all of his game-changing plays this season, Pekarek said Smith would be remembered most for almost single-handedly winning Lansing's homecoming game against Basehor-Linwood. Smith scored touchdowns on a blocked punt, a long reception and fumble recovery, and also had a safety. He accounted for 20 of Lansing's points in a 22-15 victory.
"I've been coaching 30 years and I've never seen a guy on one team score 20 of the 22 points in a game," Pekarek said. "I've never seen that : ever."
"He really likes contact," Pekarek added. "He likes to hit, and he wants to play defense. That's a good area for him to be."
Smith said Thursday was a dream come true, noting that he has wanted to play college football since he was a boy.
"Since Walt Terron was coaching us in third grade, I've always wanted to move on, and it came true today," he said.
Coffeyville is getting Lansing's biggest playmaker in Smith, but the Red Ravens also are getting one of the strongest Lions in Bowen.
Bowen has been a staple on the Lions' offensive and defensive lines for the past two years, and he was their fifth-leading tackler in 2007 with 46 stops. Although a bit undersized for an offensive guard at 6-foot and 250 pounds, Pekarek said Bowen was a constant presence in the weight room and narrowly missed out on setting school records in a number of power lifts.
"His numbers are way up there in strength," Pekarek said. "He's got a short, squatty body. He wants to play offensive guard, and those are the kind of bodies they have there in college."
Pekarek said Bowen also could play nose guard on defense because of his strength and quickness.
The only Lion stronger than Bowen was Terron, and he was a standout two-way performer for LHS. He rushed for 622 yards and five touchdowns on 81 carries as a fullback, and he recorded a team-high 98 tackles as a linebacker. He had a career-high 20 tackles during Lansing's season-ending loss to Gardner-Edgerton.
Terron said Fort Scott gave him the choice whether to play offense or defense, but he said he plans to play linebacker.
"They said they're gonna let me choose because they think they'll get more out of me if I play a position I want to play," he said.
Pekarek said he expects Fort Scott to be Terron's first step to playing Division I football.
"He'll get picked up by somebody big," Pekarek said. "I told (Kansas State coach Ron) Prince when he was here, 'He's a guy you need to keep track of. I'll help you keep track of him, because he's a guy I think can play at your level.'"
Perhaps no Lion improved quite as much as Becker this season, and his dominant senior campaign caught the eye of numerous college coaches, Pekarek said.
"I was showing some film to some college coaches, and I wasn't showing them film on him, but they're watching the film and they're picking him out," Pekarek said. "They're going, 'Who's this guy?'"
"This guy" was fourth on the team with 56 tackles, and he was second in the Kaw Valley League in quarterback sacks with seven. He also recovered two fumbles and batted down numerous passes.
"He showed a lot more speed out there than what we thought he had as a defensive end," Pekarek said. "He surprised us out there."
Pekarek said Becker's intelligence made him a great football player at Lansing, and he said it would help Becker contribute at Fort Scott, too.
"He's very smart; I think he's a 3.5-something (grade-point average), so he was very good at being able to take a little coaching and do this or that," Pekarek said. "He was able to take it and make plays."