Themes, storylines and questions ahead of LHS Football’s 2022 season

How are the Lions planning to break through the sub-state ceiling in 2022?


Dylan Wheatman

The Lawrence High football team takes the field at the 2022 Fall Sports Jamboree.

By Jack Ritter, Co-Editor-in-Chief of

Coming off two consecutive deep playoff runs, Lawrence High’s football team plans to stay on track with the help of new faces and tough attitudes. 

The Lions enter the season missing more than a dozen starters from last year’s sub-state squad, so they will need new means to drive another season far into the playoffs.

Senior Cole Watson, the Sports In Kansas’ 6A All-State Tight End, was adamant about what he thought the biggest key to the Lions’ success would be.

“Motivation. Remembering how we went out last year just brings motivation,” he said. “Motivation for us to be better or almost perfect. We’re going to make sure we end on a better note this season. That Derby loss was just defeating.”

Unfortunately for Lawrence High, each of their last two campaigns have ended at the hands of the Derby Panthers, who have won six of the past nine 6A state championships. 

Senior linebacker Kenton Simmons said all paths point towards Derby, and to achieve championship glory, the Lions would have to go through the Panthers.

“We want them again,” he said. “Last year, some things didn’t go our way. This year, I think we can get it done. There’s going to have to be a lot of people who step up.”

Junior defensive tackle Kem Allen agreed with Watson and Simmons, adding that new starters also have a high level of motivation.

“We lost some key pieces,” he said. “But there were backups who are now starters who have improved a lot. As long as we do what we need to do, we’ll have a ring on our fingers.”

Watson, Allen and the team’s motivation will carry the Lions into a schedule that, from a numbers perspective, appears less troublesome than last year. 

In fact, from weeks three through six, the Lions will face four schools (Shawnee Mission East, Olathe East, Shawnee Mission North and Gardner-Edgerton) that combined for fewer wins than LHS last season. 

Perennial playoff teams such as Olathe North (8-3 in 2021, third-round exit), Mill Valley (13-1, 5A state champion) and Shawnee Mission Northwest (8-4, third-round exit) are absent from this year’s schedule. And the schools who replaced those games? Olathe South (5-5, second-round exit), Shawnee Mission East (2-7, first-round exit) and Olathe West (7-3, second-round exit).

Regardless, the Lions will face multiple obstacles on the road ahead.

“It may seem easy, but in football, it only takes one play, and you’re out of the game,” Allen said. “We’ve got to stay locked in and play at the level we’re at, not down to the competition.”

Winning most of their games, at any level of difficulty, could provide the Lions with an advantage they haven’t had in years; a real home playoff advantage.

Fans may recall that Lawrence High hosted each of its playoff opponents just two years ago after going undefeated in the regular season. However, due to COVID restrictions, the team could not cultivate a real home-playoff environment. Last year, the sixth-seeded Lions traveled to Junction City, Manhattan and Derby. 

“Home playoff advantage is really big,” Simmons said. “After traveling a lot last year, I feel like playing at home would give us an advantage. Our student section and fans go crazy.”

Whether they travel far or stay home, the Lions will need leaders to band the team together and form camaraderie.

“For the new guys, I can understand their thought process,” Simmons said. “We can connect and bond because that’s how I was when I had Cole Mondi and Karson Green to help me out.”

In addition to Simmons and Allen, Lawrence High returns senior linebackers Nathan Blettner and Tate Meyer, defensive end Lance Bassett and cornerback Kyle Watson, leaving five starting spots to be determined. 

Scratch that; four starting spots are to be determined. Senior Josh King, who played just one game before a season-ending injury in 2021, will pivot from running back to safety this year. 

“Being on the football field feels a lot better,” he said. “Also, being able to play the sport I love [is better]. I think our defense as a whole has really come together. We’ve got something good going on.”

Defensively, the Lions should continue to play well. As head coach Clint Bowen and longtime assistant Jamie Resseguie lay the groundwork, new coaches will contribute new perspectives and relationships with the players. Among them are former University of Kansas linebacker Jay Dineen, former Marshall linebacker Chase Hancock and Devin McAnderson.

“Guys like [Dineen and Hancock] have insight that only a player will know,” said Simmons, who holds multiple division 1 offers. “Dineen and I can connect because he’s been at the D1 level. He went through what I am going through and went further than where I’m at.”

Offensively, the team will be a mix of familiar and new faces. 

Regarding returning starters, the fans will recognize seniors Watson, wide receiver Sam Sedo, tight end Jayden Brittingham and junior offensive lineman Will Hendricks. In addition, seniors in wide receiver Dominic Ostronic and running back Brayden Heck will look to step up from their previous contributor roles. 

The big questions for the offense lie with and behind the offensive line. 

Four new players will march into the trenches with Hendricks. How will the new group succeed? How will Hendricks lead them?

“I’m focusing on expectations,” Hendricks said. “I’ve explained to them, they, just as with me, have big shoes to fill. They understand that. It’s a mature group, and I’m super excited to win with them.”

Behind the line, junior Tyson Grammer boasts good throwing power and varsity experience going into his first season as a starting quarterback.

“I’m looking forward to building with this team and getting better every day,” he said. “The biggest challenge for me will be having the leadership a QB needs because I’m not the loudest or most outgoing person. But on the football field, I’m going to have to be a leader.”

The biggest question that remains is who will line up next to Grammer at running back.

Former Highland Park varsity running back Tyrell “Tbird” Reed transferred to Lawrence High this summer for his senior year. However, the question of his eligibility remains, as a consequence of Kansas State High School Athletics Association’s (KSHSAA) regulations on varsity players transferring schools. 

Reed’s eligibility is currently pending, and he is hoping for a verdict before the first game on September 1. While the team waits, it will presumably be Heck lining up for most of the RB snaps, with King likely getting some run too.

Questions, number-based theories and opinions aside, various reasons show why the Lions will improve or stay consistent this season. The biggest reason is simply what Lawrence High did last fall on the gridiron.

After going into that 2021 season having lost 18 starters and a renowned coach in Steve Rampy, and after COVID wrecked much of what was in place, Bowen established himself. Lawrence High succeeded with new coaches, new schemes and new stars. Fans should expect Bowen and the team can do much of the same this go-around.

“It’s year two of Bowen,” Simmons said. “We were only a game away. We’re going to build on what we did last year and be better.”