Football team still eyeing state championship heading into Homecoming game

Lawrence High’s football team is still vying for a state title despite two straight losses on the road prior to Friday’s homecoming game


Kenna McNally

Senior Avion Nelson carries the ball during the Oct. 1 loss to Shawnee Mission Northwest. The Lions are looking to rebound at Homecoming against Shawnee Mission South.

By Ryan Hardie, Sports Editor

Coming off two losses on the road to the likes of Mill Valley and Shawnee Mission Northwest, the football team remains confident as it heads into its remaining three regular season games with hopes for a long postseason.

And there’s no better way to energize an already hungry team than to play the Homecoming game in front of fans and family. Nobody better understands the desire to bring another football state championship to Lawrence High than Coach Clint Bowen. Bowen won two state championships himself as a player for LHS, and he angles to do the same as a coach.

“When I played here we won two out of three,” Bowen said. “That’s the only patch you put on your letter jacket for a reason. We don’t put district or league on. It’s about winning it all.”

Bowen brings a competitive edge to the team in his first year as head coach after more than two decades on the coaching staffs of NCAA division one teams, including at The University of Kansas.

“Well, for me, we take the field to win,” he said. “When the scoreboard is on, whether I’m playing my 3-year-old nephew in Uno, or playing for a state championship, I’m going to win the game. It’s just what you do.” 

With Bowen’s proven leadership and football knowledge, players said they are eager to match his energy and compete alongside each other with belief in their abilities.

“It’s amazing,” senior quarterback Truman Juelsgaard said. “He’s brought so much energy. Coach Bowen has gotten the community into it. We’re on fire, and hopefully we can bring a championship back to Lawrence High School like he did in his day.”

Energy isn’t the only major change that has been brought to the football program this year, as coach Bowen provides advanced, proven coaching strategies from higher levels of football.

“It’s a big difference in terms of what you can do schematically and in terms of preparation for what you can do at the high school level,” Bowen said. “There’s just not the amount of time that you have with players at the higher levels of football, so it forces you to really streamline what you’re doing.”

A culture change is also starting to take place at Lawrence High, as the program is seeking its first football state championship since 1996. The team narrowly missed out last year, losing to the eventual state champions Derby High School during state sectionals.

Bowen is aiming to improve participation in the sport, citing low numbers in feeder programs.

“They should join because it’s a school sport, and they can make new friends, have mentors, and learn lessons,” said senior Justin Masters.

The Homecoming game will be an opportunity to make a mark after crowds were limited during last year’s season. Lawrence High looks to pack the stands and dominate with school spirit and presence.

Additionally, there’s no better way to overcome a small losing streak than with an invigorated home crowd during Homecoming weekend. Quarterback Truman Juelsgaard, receiver Baylor Bowen, offensive lineman Noah Smith and linebacker Evan Bannister all represent the football team as members of the Homecoming court.

 “You know anytime you get to play a home game in front of your home fans [is exciting]. You combine that with Homecoming and everything that’s been going on around the school and the excitement creates a special buzz for all the students,” Bowen said. “To go out and finish it off on Friday night with a win, I think our kids will take great pride in it.”

First year LHS head football Coach Clint Bowen argues with a referee at the Oct. 1 Shawnee Mission Northwest game. He was ejected near the end of the game. (Kenna McNally)

Bowen won’t be able to take the field with his players tonight after getting ejected from the Oct. 1 game against Shawnee Mission Northwest.

“That caught me off guard a little bit,” Bowen said. “It’s a learning experience for me with how I’ve operated for 25 years. Things that have been no big deal for 25 years suddenly became a big deal, and I just didn’t realize that that was the makeup of the situation. It’s just what I’ve been doing all my life. I didn’t know that it was an issue, so now I can learn and move on.”

As the Homecoming football game approaches, the team continues to have an air of cautious confidence. Nothing would satisfy the team like a win and a continued successful season.

“We’ve been rolling and playing really well on both sides of the ball. The defense has been carrying a little bit and the offense is continuing to do what we do,” said senior offensive tackle Noah Smith.

With all eyes looking forward to the potential of a state championship and deep postseason run, the football team is hoping to pick back up where it left off a few weeks ago and start another hot streak. As important as a win on friday night would be to the players, it remains unquestioned that a state championship is the ultimate goal that they continue to strive and train for.

“The goal is to win a state championship,” said Juelsgaard, “and bring it back here to Lawrence High.”