Football notes: Big opening matchups, but not season-makers
With three of the state’s top football matchups in the Wichita area Friday, good luck choosing which one to attend.
There’s Heights (ranked fifth in Class 6A) at defending 5A champion Bishop Carroll (No. 2 in 5A). There’s Derby (top-ranked in 6A) playing host to Salina South (No. 1 in 5A), and Andale (No. 2 in 4A) is at Collegiate.
These are big games against tough opponents, but they aren’t must-wins.
“This game is not going to be the defining game for Derby,” Panthers coach Brandon Clark said. “We’re going to use this game as a great tool, because we’re playing such a great team, to find what we need to get better in, areas we need to improve on.”
A loss certainly doesn’t kill a season. Salina South lost to 27-14 to Derby in 2012’s opener, then didn’t lose again until the 5A semifinals. Derby played in the 6A semifinals.
Derby and Salina South will be teams to be reckon with in the postseason again. The Panthers are loaded with talent, including tight end DeAndre Goolsby, who has scholarship offers from Ohio State and Florida, along with Tyler West, a four-year starter at running back.
Salina South returns 15 starters, including quarterback Justin Stonebraker (873 passing yards, 806 rushing) and running back Mike Jones (1,781 rushing yards).
“We’re not good enough to not throw the playbook at them,” Clark said. “They’ll get our best shot, and I’m sure it’s the same thing with them, too.”
But setting the tone for the year is important.
“You’re trying to figure out, ‘Who are we this year?’” Collegiate coach Mike Gehrer said. “It’s a great testing place, but you are trying to set the tone. It’s important to get off on a good foot because not only do you play Andale the first week, you turn back around and play Buhler (No. 5 in 4A) the next week.
“That’s two great programs, back-to-back. You have to hit the ground basically running. You don’t have a lot of time to get better before the second game.”
Teams have nearly three weeks to prepare for their first games, but Gehrer and Clark were both wishing for a few more days.
The preparation is about making sure the little mistakes, such as penalties and lining up incorrectly, don’t happen.
“It’s so important that the kids get the right information so they’re ready to play,” Gehrer said. “… You’ve got to be able to line up, be assignment sound. The defense is the key to the whole drive of the game, especially in the first ballgame. So much is based on last year and what they do. With our history with Andale, we have an idea of what they’ll do, but then you’re preparing for things you’re not sure they’ll do.”
Kingman’s late start — When Sunrise Christian notified Kingman that it couldn’t fulfill its opening matchup due to low numbers and a move back to eight-man football, Kingman coach Curtis Albin understood.
“Right at the beginning of June, we found out that they had their football meeting at the end of school and only 17 kids attended,” Albin said. “Twelve were freshmen.… We’ve been in the situation where we’ve had to play young kids against old kids for the past two years. They take a beating. I wouldn’t want my son as a freshman having to play against a 215-pound senior.”
But the late notice forced Kingman to try to track down an opponent for Week 1, when few teams have an open date. Albin said they even contacted teams from surrounding states, hoping for a game.
Kingman, which has 55 players, up from 43 in 2012, will play host to Hutchinson’s junior varsity team at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“No one wants to have a Week 1 bye,” Albin said. “In the first two weeks, I think you make the biggest improvements. You play someone, they expose weaknesses, and you go back and fix them.”
Valley Center also lost a game with Sunrise’s move to eight-man. Valley Center contacted Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma teams, but failed to find an opponent for Sept. 27.
Games to watch in Week 2 — Caney Valley at Conway Springs, Collegiate at Buhler, McPherson at Hays, Salina South at Maize.