When game planning for a potent offense like Lawrence, the conventional wisdom says to establish a running game to keep the ball out of the opposing quarterback’s hands.
But sometimes plans are meant to be broken. So after Jason Randall’s opening two carries went for negative three yards against the Lawrence Lions Friday, coach Kevin Kopecky decided to open up the playbook.
The result was a fun, nothing-to-lose first half driven by the hope that the Pioneers could upset one of the hottest teams in the Sunflower League.
Leavenworth hung around with the Lions for much of the first 30 minutes, but a late turnover resulted in a Lawrence score right before half time, marking the beginning of the end.
The Pioneers scored twice more in the second half, but couldn’t stop the prolific Lion offense and lost 46-26.
“It was time for us to put a good game together and for the most part we played pretty well,” Kopecky said. “Our guys played hard. They weren’t intimidated by them. Those two interceptions were bad. You can’t turn the ball over. It was a big stat.”
Before the second turnover bit them, the Pioneers led 12-8 halfway through the second quarter after Isaiah Ross ran up the middle for a 32-yard touchdown.
Then, after a blocked Leavenworth punt became a first down, the visitors had a chance to retake the lead before half. The Pioneers were driving but quarterback Judson Cole tried to force a ball into a tight window and ended up throwing it into the hands of a red jersey.
“Judson was just trying to make something happen. Sometimes people get on him for going down with the football, and he was trying to make a play, but just threw it to the wrong team,” said Kopecky.
The turnover set the table for Lawrence’s two-minute offense, which ended in a quarterback keeper for a TD with 12 seconds left.
Before that error, Kopecky’s aerial attack paid dividends on Leavenworth’s third drive. Landry Hodges connected with Jeff George on consecutive jump balls down the left sideline before Randall took the ball five-yards for the game’s opening touchdown.
After Lawrence replied with a TD of its own, the Pioneers came back with the first of two Ross rushing touchdowns. At half, the Pioneers trailed 22-12.
In the second half, Lawrence mixed in a rushing attack to their bread-and-butter passing, wearing down the Pioneer defense. Leavenworth was able to get a couple scores of their own, one on a third quarter Randall kickoff return, the other on Ross’ second rushing touchdown.
Page 2 of 2 - The score made it a 14-point game midway through the fourth quarter. But Lawrence had one final scoring drive left that put the game away for good.
“He [Ross] really stepped up,” Kopecky said. “We knew all along he was capable of doing that, and it’s good to see that out of him. He had a good game.”
Cole finished the game 0-for-4 passing. Hodges was 3-for-6 for 75 yards. The Pioneers, 3-4, host Lawrence Free State at 7 p.m. Friday.
“Some people have them as the No. 1 team in the state,” the LV coach said. “It was a fairly competitive game last year. We’ve got to regroup, and we’re going to give it everything the last two games and try to get two in a row.”