Back in the early 1980s, there was no better football rivalry
Little River and Canton-Galva waged some memorable Heart of America League battles in those days and there always was a lot on the line.
Just like Friday.
The Eagles host the Redskins and the winner most likely will join Central Plains as a playoff representative.
Canton-Galva enters the game 3-3, having blasted St. John last week as it scored 58 points in the second and third quarters combined.
“We didn't come out with a lot of energy in the first half of the game last week at St. John, which has been a battle my staff and I have been fighting all year with our group,” C-G coach Shelby Hoppes said. “With lack of energy came lack of execution. We did make some plays in the kick return game and were fortunate to go into halftime up 10. I challenged them at halftime to play inspired football and go have fun. The boys responded and the third quarter ended up being one of our highest point scoring quarters of the year while our defense held them to just six third-quarter points. I told them after the game, that is the passion and energy it takes from start to finish to go from an average football team to a good or great football team.”
Hoppes saw a lot of good things after the slow start.
“We were able to move the ball on the ground Friday, which is something we've been working hard on with this young group of linemen,” Hoppes said. “We reached our team goal for rushing yards with over 200 for the game. That will need to continue as we get deeper into district play as we face bigger, more physical defenses.”
Hoppes knows the Eagles have to come out and hold their own in the trenches as Little River is bigger up front.
“Little River is big and physical,” he said. “Their defensive front is the biggest and most physical we will play all year. Peyton Harvey is an exceptional two-way player for them. On offense if we allow him to get going he has the speed to score on any play. We will need to rise up to the challenge this week and play a more physical brand of football, executing from the opening kickoff on offense, defense and on special teams.”
As for the 4-2 Redskins, if there’s such a thing as a moral victory they had it last week. They were down to powerhouse Central Plains just 14-12 in the third quarter before it all came unglued in a 52-12 loss.
“I thought we played a really good first half of football,” Little River coach Chad Lafferty said. “We had kids flying to the football, took care of the ball and created some turnovers in the first half, which is what we needed in order to give ourselves a chance. The second half started out pretty well for us also as we were able to get a defensive stop and then score to pull us within 2 points. After that point in the game they were able to get some things going in the passing game and swung all the momentum their way and we weren't able to turn the tide. They were able to get a couple of turnovers that gave them a short field to work with and they took advantage. The boys played hard all night long and will hopefully learn from this game and build upon it in the future.”
Lafferty, whose team defeated the Eagles 54-8 last year, sees Canton-Galva as a much-improved team.
“This week we have a very good Canton-Galva team that will be tough to defend,” Lafferty said. “They have three players in (Dylan) Wood, (Jonah) Sargent and (Landon) Everett who can score every time they touch the ball. They like to spread you out and attack your defense with their read game and if the defense makes a mistake they will make you pay with a big play. They can also air it out if you load the box, so our defense is going to have to play really well to give ourselves a chance. Defensively, they run downhill and gang tackle very well, the key for us will be maintaining our blocks and our backs will have to make some people miss.”
Little River, Canton-Galva and Goessel are all 1-1 in district play as both the Redskins and Eagles have lost to Central Plains.
• Moundridge at Sedgwick —The Wildcats are coming off the emotional high of routing arch-rival Inman 44-8 and their game with the Cardinals on Friday could very well determine the district winner as both teams are 2-0 so far.
“We played really well as a team, both sides of the ball we were very physical and we controlled the game throughout,” said Moundridge coach Jeremiah Meeks, whose team has won two straight since an 0-4 start. “Our defense played well and forced some turnovers and got plenty of pressure on the quarterback. The O-line played great, allowing us to run for 450 on the ground. Jared (Kaufman) played a great game with 288 on the ground.”
Last year’s game was a 24-20 Cardinal victory and resulted in Sedgwick winning the district, with Moundridge the runner-up.
“Sedgwick will be very tough, they are physical and will fly around and hit you. We will have to be prepared on defense this week,” Meeks said.
Like the Wildcats, the Cardinals are 2-4 overall, but had a good 31-21 win over Sterling. They also played Marion within 38-35 and are coming off a 58-7 rout of Medicine Lodge.
• Remington at Inman — The Teutons’ only hopes of staying in the district hunt rest on their game Friday.
The Teutons are 0-6 and took a step back last week with a 44-8 loss to arch-rival Moundridge.
Inman actually led that game 8-7 at one stage, but its defense couldn’t contain a Wildcat offense that found its identity.
Inman did put up some good yards as Payton Froese threw for more than 200.
"I thought we saw some improvements," Inman coach Lance Sawyer said. "Our running game improved with the emergence of Nate Shober as running back and our continued development of our offensive line. We really put up good numbers on the offensive side of the ball, however, we struggled to score in the red zone. Moundridge was able to be more physical on both sides of the ball and we wore down in the second half."
Somebody is going to get their first win as the Broncos also are 0-6 on the year. However, they nearly defeated Moundridge a couple of weeks ago, losing 20-19 when the Wildcats stopped a 2-point conversion late in the game.
"We must come out physical against Remington," Sawyer said. "They have size up front that we will have to match up with. They have an experienced quarterback that really throws the ball well. Again, just like every other week, if we are able to stop the run we will have a chance."
• Hesston at Hillsboro — The Swathers open district play with their third straight road game and riding the momentum of last week’s impressive 30-14 win over Kingman.
“We were proud of the bounce-back energy we had in the first half of Friday's game,” said Hesston coach Tyson Bauerle, whose team finished the tough pre-district schedule 3-3. “Coming off of two games where none of us played or coached at expectations, we challenged our guys to have a tough response and we did that. It was also nice to see a long, sustained drive in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.”
Parker Roth started the game by scoring just 14 seconds in and finished with three TDs as he had a big night. And the defense, which had struggled much of the year, may have experienced a turnaround game.
“The defense stepped up in a big way Friday,” Bauerle said. “We held Kingman to 134 total yards. If we take away their two scoring plays they had that equalled 60 yards, we hold them to under 75 yards total for the game. It was a big game for our guys up front.”
Hesston is in a quality district, though Hillsboro is the one team that is struggling. The Trojans are just 1-5.
“Hillsboro has some dangerous athletes at the skill positions,” Bauerle said. “They have a very good receiver in Jacob Funk that we'll have to prepare for. They've been hit hard with the injury bug this season, but I know they are also planning on having some guys back so we'll prepare for all their weapons to be back and healthy.”
Also in the Hesston district, Marion is 5-1 and Southeast of Saline is 3-3.
In last year’s game with Hillsboro, the Swathers won going away 49-20.
• Rock Creek at Smoky Valley — The Vikings are the district favorite as like Hesston they begin the “second season” on Friday.
Rock Creek has given the Vikings some great games in the past, including last year’s 36-29 Smoky Valley victory when it scored late to pull it out.
“Rock Creek will be a good test for us,” said Smoky Valley coach Tim Lambert, whose team is riding a three-game winning streak and is 5-1 on the season. “They play hard and are very well coached.”
The Vikings played only a quarter last week and had Lyons down 22-0 when the game was called due to inclement weather. Given the direction the score was headed, the Lions just decided it was better to stop and prevent any possible injuries.
Rock Creek is an uncustomary 2-4 at this point, but has played a tough schedule. It lost just 21-14 to Class 4A D-I Wamego and also has lost to 3A power Silver Lake among others. The Mustangs did defeat defending Class 3A champ Rossville and Wabaunsee.