A few moments before taking the field for one last state-championship tuneup, Lawson senior quarterback Garrett Titus attempted to recap an 14-week season in a handful of minutes.
By SAM McDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
Standing on the turf at the Chiefs’ indoor practice facility, Titus touched on a number of topics — signature moments, offensive blueprints, defensive turning points — before singling out what he called the defining quality of this team.
As it prepares to face two-time defending champion Lamar in the Missouri Class 2 state championship at 4:15 p.m. Friday, Titus explained, the Lawson Cardinals enjoy a familiar role.
“We’ve thrived in games where all these people say we’re going to lose by 20 points,” Titus said. “It’s been really awesome to prove everybody wrong and make a name for our ourselves.”
In fairness, those picking against Lawson have had a legitimate reason. The Cardinals returned only three starters from last season and were blown out twice over the first six weeks of the season.
A state championship run, at least at that point, seemed unlikely.
“We thought we had talent, but we didn’t know how that talent would mature because they were so inexperienced,” Lawson coach Todd Dun said. “They’ve just grown every week, and I think that talk of them not being very good – or not supposed to be good — really got them going. They’ve had that chip on their shoulder all year long.”
Nothing changes now. Not with Lamar on the other sideline.
Twins Sam Bailey — an offensive lineman and a Missouri commit — and Ben Bailey power a rushing attack that has Lamar averaging 65 points per game this season.
“It’s definitely going to be tough, but the thing about this year is we’ve been playing on house money for the last three weeks already,” Dunn said. “I’ll be totally honest — in 2007 (the last year Lawson won a state title), it was hard to have a lot of fun because there was a lot of pressure. Now, we can just go out there and let it fly because we’re not supposed to be here.”
So how did Lawson get here anyway?
Well, Titus has played a major role. A year after lining up at wide receiver, he moved to quarterback, where he’s a dual-threat in the offense. He has combined for more than 2,000 total yards.
“It’s surprised me the numbers he’s put up,” Dunn said. “He’s been a huge part of our offense. He’s really stepped up as a leader, which is something he’s worked really hard at.”
Despite the offensive success, though, it’s the defense that has really taken off during the team’s current eight-game winning streak. After a 48-14 loss to East Buchanan in week six, the Cardinals have allowed only 8 points per game. They allowed 20.3 in the first half of the year.
“The East (Buchanan) game was a turning point in our season,” said Titus, who also starts on defense as a safety. “We learned that we had to really start buying into each other and trusting each other to do our jobs on defense. That’s what wins championships.”
The Cardinals will find out Friday if that holds true.