Lions set to face off with Manhattan High in football state quarterfinals

Lions carry five game win streak into matchup with eyes set on a state title

By Jack Ritter, Reporter

The red hot No. 6 seed Lawrence High Chesty Lions look to keep their state championship hopes alive against No. 2 seed Manhattan this Friday, Nov. 12.

The Lions go into this game on a five-game win streak taking down Shawnee Mission South, Olathe North, Free State, Topeka and Junction City, three of which are eight-win teams. Most recently, the Lions beat three-seed Junction City on the road 38-21 to claim the regional title.

The Lions will now turn their attention to west Kansas powerhouse Manhattan, who boast a commanding 9-1 record. Despite the strong record, many have questioned whether it is a true indicator of their quality. Just last week Manhattan barely edged out No. 10 seed Gardner-Edgerton in a 38-35 win on a last-second field goal.

Not only are Manhattan and LHS both strong teams this season, they are two football programs rich with history. They have faced off 56 times since 1916 with the Lions leading the all-time series 38-15-3.

As a player at Lawrence High from 1986 to 1989, current head coach Clint Bowen knows the significance of the historic rivalry.

“Even though we do not play Manhattan every year due to conference, the KU/Lawrence & Manhattan/KSU connection give the game a rivalry feel,” he said “LHS and Manhattan have played some great games against each other.”

From 1987 to 1989, Lawrence and Manhattan faced off in the 6A title game every year, and Lawrence won 2 of those 3 games.

This year, the Lions’ defense looks to stop a high-scoring Manhattan offense. Defensive stars Lance Bassett, Kem Allen, Kenton Simmons, Avion Nelson and Keyan Crawford were all regarded for their skill by MHS head coach Joe Schartz in an interview with The Mercury.

Bowen also talked about some specifics regarding how the defense needs to perform.

“Our defense has to play great gap control and not allow their tailback to get outside,” he said. “In the secondary we need great eyes in coverage to avoid being fooled on play-action passes.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the MHS defense has also done well this season.

In ten games, Manhattan allowed more than two touchdowns only four times, and in those four games MHS is 3-1, with their singular loss coming at the hands of Topeka-Washburn Rural.

“Manhattan defensively will stack the box to stop the run. Offensively we need to complete throws early to back their safeties up,” Bowen said. “Their safety [Joe Hall] is a top player and overall they are athletic.”

If the Lions are to come out victorious, they’ll either have a rematch against their cross-town rival Free State or they’ll face off against perennial-powerhouse Derby High School, who knocked LHS out of the playoffs last year, in the final four.