The Lansing Lions football team suffered a 34-27 loss in a thriller against St. James to end their regular season at 5-4. It was a big improvement from the 2-7 record in 2017 and it was described as “the first step in the right direction” by head coach Dylan Brown.
Brown was promoted to head coach prior to the 2018 season. He previously was an assistant for the Lions. Brown was asked what were the biggest things he learned during his first year as head coach.
“That things take time,” Brown said. “And even though we want to win everything right now, that's just not realistic, and so we have to take every opportunity to improve and get a little better every time we can, and then trust that the improvement will begin to show.”
The Lions started the season 1-3 with self-inflicted mistakes costing the team. The team turned it around and the Lions won four straight to finish 5-3 heading into the playoffs. Prior to the St. James game, Brown said the big reason for the turnaround was the team working on themselves and focusing on the little improvements every day.
Going back to the preseason, Brown said the team’s motto this season was “Work. Together.” The working together meant that different players would have to step up in different games, which made it hard for Brown to pick an MVP.
“That's so hard to determine in our system,” Brown said. “Konner McQuillan is the obvious statistical leader, and is our lead captain, but our system is dependent on everyone being able to execute their positions. Sometimes that means different guys take over the game, sometimes that was our quarterback, or slotback, our wing back and always our offensive line. Defensively, it’s the same, we had so many guys contribute to the cause, so many games with different guys that stepped up. Our leading defensive guy statistically was Tre’ Pledger, and he's also a captain.”
Brown also said he saw two seniors step their game up this season.
“The biggest surprise for me was our senior center, Christian Last,” Brown said. “He did not have a lot of playing time in his previous year and was a primarily JV/scout guy his sophomore and junior year. He made a commitment to our offseason program and put himself in position to get varsity snaps. He came in late during the De Soto game and did a great job. Our offense was able to run effectively when he came in, and he stayed at the spot until the very end. On the defensive side, we saw a big improvement throughout the year in senior Malachi Tinnel. He started as a corner, but due to injury was asked to move to outside LB. He picked it up quickly and became a leader on the defense. His positive response to the position change and becoming a leader for a group that was sophomore dominated is also where we saw him help improve our team as a whole.”
If he had to pick the team’s best overall game, Brown said it would have been the second game of the season against the Basehor-Linwood Bobcats.
“I think our best overall game was against Basehor,” Brown said. “It was by far our best defensive effort of the year, being able to slow that team down in any situation is a feat. Offensively we were able to make the right plays at the right time, and not shoot ourselves in the foot, which was a problem early on. It was a game that showed our kids the possibility of what they could do if they kept buying into our program.”
He also said holding off the Bobcats at the end of the game was his favorite memory of the season.
With the season now over, the Lions will say goodbye to 11 seniors who are leaving the program to graduation. Brown said he thinks this is the best senior class he has seen at Lansing.
“I told the group that this senior group was, as a whole, one of the best groups I’ve seen at Lansing when it came to providing leadership,” Brown said. “Everything positive this program might accomplish from this point on, they know that they started that and should always now they are apart of anything we do from here on out.”
Brown was asked what an early outlook for next season looks like.
“There are way too many variables for me to even start guessing what next season looks like,” Brown said. “I guess I can say in the last two games of the year we had four sophomores and five juniors either starting or rotating reps on offense and four sophomores and four juniors starting or rotating on defense. So it appears we will have a good starting point at least.”