Challenging season leaves football team with mixed feelings

Lawrence High football finishes with a winning record but ends with a frustrating postseason run


Dylan Wheatman

Senior Cole Watson lines up on defense in LHS’ playoff game against Derby on November 4th.

By Jack Tell, Sports Editor

The LHS football team has concluded a whirlwind of a 2022 season, complete with breakthrough wins and heartbreaking losses. The team was led by a handful of veteran stars who helped guide the otherwise young team through a roller coaster season. 

The varsity team finished the season 6-4, winning one playoff game before falling to Derby on the road to end the short playoff run. LHS opened with a close loss against Olathe South at home, but quickly bounced back with four consecutive wins, outscoring those opponents 164-50. The Lions then suffered a devastating City Showdown loss to cross-town rival Free State. They bounced back with two big wins at home, including a 48-13 rout of Wichita Heights in the first round of the playoffs. 

At the beginning of the season, the Lions went on the road to play Olathe West and took home a big win. The game came down to the last play, with senior Kenton Simmons getting a huge defensive stop in the red zone as time ran out. Head coach Clint Bowen said that win was a key one for his team’s confidence. 

“It was a road game, at that time we thought we were headed on a different path, and they were a good team,” Bowen said.  “It was two teams who everyone thought were going to be really good teams at the end of the year. So to go on the road, and to win that game, which was a big matchup, I thought that was going to catapult us into a really positive season.”

Junior starting quarterback Tyson Grammer was excited about that game. He threw for 185 yards and two touchdowns against Olathe East. 

“My most memorable game was the Olathe East game. It was a pretty big game going into it,” Grammer said. “It was their homecoming, and I had a really good game.”

For the second half of the season, the Lions misled opposing defenses by rotating snaps between Grammer and sophomore Banks Bowen. Coach Bowen, a former D-1 defensive coordinator, explained that the dynamics of high school football make having a good run game essential. 

“High school football is a little bit different, it’s hard to throw the football in high school. There’s a lot of things in the throwing game that make it difficult. So teams will absolutely put as many run defenders in the box as possible, and almost dare you to throw it.”

When forced to throw, Coach Bowen said that having two different quarterback options enabled them to use unique plays like a designed QB run to avoid that situation. 

“Each of our QBs have different skill sets that help them be successful at certain aspects. Banks ran the ball a little bit better at the end, and so that forced us, if we couldn’t throw it, to use two QBs.  And I thought the two kids handled it really well, they were very positive in the way they did it.”

Grammer agreed, glad to let Banks do more running, and keep his focus on passing. 

“It definitely worked well. We could throw defenses off more, with passing and running. Banks is good at running the ball, I’m good at passing the ball. Just threw them off a little bit.”

Senior running back Tyrell Reed had a standout season, finishing as LHS’ leader in rushing yards and the 15th best running back in the state. He racked up nearly 1,000 rushing yards over the season, with three kickoff returns for touchdowns, and 20 total touchdowns.

“I had a mission,” Reed said. “I told myself before the year that I was going to be one of the top running backs in the state, so I trained and then felt good, and came out on top as the rushing leader.”

Reed and Banks Bowen were both going to be instrumental in LHS’ matchup against Derby. Bad weather rolled in as the team bus traveled to Derby’s stadium. The windy, cold, and rainy conditions dictated a game that would be decided by running the ball. Coach Bowen pointed out that both teams had to deal with the weather situation, and it just came down to who could execute. 

“It was not a great night to play,” Bowen said. “Both teams went into that game, we were a pretty run heavy team, they were a run heavy team. The pass game was obviously gonna be limited. But in reality, going into that game, I thought the conditions favored us. We were the physically bigger team, and we couldn’t take advantage of it.”

The Lions deferred their possession, and then allowed an early score by Derby star running back Dylan Edwards. Banks Bowen said that momentum was the key in that game. 

“I’d say we came out really slow, just had the simple problem of guys not doing their job, not filling the gaps, and once you don’t do that, against a good running back like Dylan Edwards, he’s just gonna take off with the game. And that’s what happened.” 

Senior stars Cole Watson at tight end, Lance Bassett at defensive lineman, and Dominic Ostronic at wide receiver joined Simmons and Reed in leading the team through an unpredictable season. Reed, who came to LHS from  Topeka for his senior year, felt like the Lions left something on the table. 

“We had our ups and downs, but I feel like we could’ve done better. We had a good record, so as a whole, it was good. It was exciting because I’m new.”

Coach Bowen was proud of his team’s effort throughout a tough season, but he was also left feeling disappointed after the second round exit in the playoffs. 

“To me, it was a frustrating season,” Bowen said. “We never put together complete games, we never could go out and just execute offensively, defensively, and special teams, at a high level in one game.

“So in a lot of ways, I don’t think we lived up to the potential of our team, which is probably the worst thing you could say as a coach. That we didn’t fulfill the potential of this team. It never came together the way that we hoped that it would.”