The first drive of the game was shaky for the Lions on Thursday night, in their season-opening win against the Shawnee Mission Northwest Cougars, as a short kick set up a short field.
The Cougars, playing at the Shawnee Mission North stadium, proved they were in no hurry, methodically carrying the ball upfield, even converting a fourth down near midfield. The Lions appeared to be on the ropes, until junior Eric Galbreath came off the edge and slalomed the Cougar quarterback into the ground for a sack.
That one play breathed life into the stagnant Lions, and from there the defense returned to the aggressive, disruptive juggernaut fans had become accustomed to over the past few seasons. Couple that with senior running back Hunter Krom pounding the Cougars to the tune of more than 300 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, an aerial assault from sophomore quarterback Garrett Romero, and the Lion’s deep core of wideouts, and it was not long before the Cougars were on the ropes in a comfortable 42-21 victory for the Lions. The win handed head coach Dirk Wedd his 100th victory as he enters his final season with the Lions.
Though the Lion’s demonstrated their big play capability throughout the game, the first drive of the game proved sluggish for the Lions. Grinding through their first game of the year, the Lions were capable of picking up small gains here and there, but were lacking the home run threat that would make the defense honest.
Seeing the timid start from the Lion’s, the Cougars brought defensive pressure early and often, eventually forcing a fumble near midfield. With the short field at their back, the Lion’s dug deep defensively, stopping the Cougars on all four downs, giving the Lion’s the ball back almost as quickly as they had lost it.
On the very next play, the Lions showed just how dangerous they are at stretching the field by hitting senior wide receiver Pakow Boye-Doe square in the chest on a crossing route. From there, Boye-Doe demonstrated exactly what has drawn the interest of multiple high-level colleges, smoothly spinning off a defender and then turning on the jets, torching the Cougar’s secondary for six. After a complete extra point from junior kicker Ross Brungardt, who was six of six on extra points, the Lions secured a lead they would not relinquish.
The next series, the Lions turned back to Boye-Doe, who again found the endzone, this time on an outside route.
The stout defensive play of the Lions came up big, stopping the Cougars short and giving the offense more time to run up the score.
After a stop from the Lions, the offense turned to Krom, who on this series demonstrated his physical play style, slashing run after run into the heart of the Cougar front seven. Eventually, he found a hole which carried the team into the redzone. On a mission, the ball kept finding its way to Krom, who eventually bounced a run outside and into the end zone to push the Lion’s to a three-score lead.
The next time the Lions had the ball, the Lions continued to feed Krom, who this time demonstrated the finesse to his game, slipping through one block and accelerating down the sideline for an 80-yard score.
The Lions ceded a consolatory touchdown run toward the end of the first half, but went into halftime holding a comfortable 28-7 lead.
If there were any questions remaining unanswered as the second half began, the Lions made sure to answer them emphatically.
The opening kick was returned by Boye-Doe to his own 43, which would have been a clear touchdown if not for the last ditch effort of a defender to push him out of bounds. The Lions virtually had free will on offense, whether it was giving Krom the ball to pound into the line, or finding Boye-Doe or fellow senior Jalen Dudley through the air. Moving the ball downfield quickly, the Lions encapsulated their drive with a touch-perfect pass from Romero into the outstretched arms of Dudley, giving the junior in his first start a trifecta of touchdowns.
The Lions proceeded with the formalities therein, not feeling the need to add on to their 28-point advantage.
The Cougars extended the game considerably, throwing the ball on nearly every single play of the second half, which to their success earned them an additional two touchdowns. However, it was too little too late for the Cougars, as the Lions added one more score along their way to running away with their season opener, 42-21.
The Lions open the season 1-0 and are back on the road Sept. 7 against Shawnee Mission North.