Area preview: Wildcats look to knock off Cardinals

By Steve Sell
September 10, 2015

One of the more interesting scores from the first weekend of high school football was Moundridge’s 24-14 loss to Marion.

While the Wildcats didn’t win, they played a state-ranked team in a higher class to the limit, as MHS let the Warriors know they were in a dogfight.

Moundridge will stay on the road Friday and face another longtime successful program when it goes to Brookville to take on Ell-Saline.

First-year Moundridge coach Matt Cole, though pleased by the effort, said a loss is still a loss — even if a lot of positives can be taken from it.

“I was excited for our kids, our assistant coaches and our fans because we put a team on the field that had a very legitimate opportunity to win a football game,” Cole said. “After looking at the film, I was disappointed because, with all due respect to Marion and their great program, we beat ourselves Friday night with mistakes, missed assignments and penalties. To be able to stand toe-to-toe with the No. 5 team in the state, when many picked us to lose by four touchdowns, and have the score be 16-8 until midway through the final quarter says a lot about our program. They basically beat us three scores to two. We came out of the locker room after the half and marched 76 yards in 10 plays and I think that was the biggest statement of the game. It told Marion and everyone else that it's a new day in Moundridge and if you're going to beat us you're going to have to play four quarters to do it.”

Cole saw a lot of bright spots.

“Parker Lange was our player of the game, giving us outstanding performances in all facets of the game. When we can get 10 more to play like he does we will be real good,” Cole said. “Kyle Stucky, Damian Calderon, Joel Holloway and Dylan Sugars combined to lead our running game to 180 yards on the ground. I was very pleased that we could spread the ball around and not lose anything in the process. Trenton Olson led our defensive effort with 12.5 total tackles, eight solo.”

Ell-Saline, which finished as the Class 2-1A state runner-up last year, opened its season with a 31-21 victory over Inman. The Cardinals were riddled by graduation, so a lot of new starters took to the field against the Teutons.

“We know until we prove ourselves we are David versus Goliath every week and we welcome that,” Cole said. “We cannot build a program and become the best unless we can beat the best, so we approach every game embracing the underdog role. We will continue to work like yard dogs to earn the respect of being a top-tier program. Until then we understand folks underestimating us and invite every team on our schedule to do so. It is my job to make sure Moundridge doesn't beat Moundridge and I failed at that this past week, so I look forward to coaching up our kids and taking another crack at it Friday night.”


• Hesston at Halstead •

Clint Rider couldn't have asked for a much better start to the season as his Hesston Swathers blanked Smoky Valley 35-0, scoring all their points in the first half.

"For the first game, our players executed at a high level and played very disciplined," Rider said. "I was really pleased with how our players rallied to the ball on defense. Offensively, we were able to take advantage of field position and avoided costly penalties. No turnovers were also a big key."

It's rivalry week for the Swathers as the Halstead game always is one that's circled on the calendar. The Dragons flexed their muscles last week in a 48-6 pummeling of Haven.

"Our opponent this week is very tough and we have a lot of respect for them," Rider said. "They are a highly ranked team for a reason. They have great players at the skill positions and their lineman play extremely tough. It will be a great challenge for us, but one that our team welcomes."

The Swather defense will be put to the test and needs another big game from Zach Anderson.

"Zach Anderson played incredible on defense," Rider said. "He tallied numerous tackles for loss and forced a fumble."

The Swathers have to find a way to stop Blake Beckett, who seemingly has been around forever. He's coming off a 2,100-yard rushing season and is a star at linebacker. He got off to a good start against Haven with 183 yards last week on just 11 carries.

• Canton-Galva at Peabody •

The Eagles suffered a heart-breaking 22-18 loss to Central Christian in the head coaching debut of Dustin Patee, giving up a score in the last minute after having overcome a 16-0 halftime deficit.

“Our first game looked as such, we were slow in our offensive execution and we had too many mental mistakes,” Patee said. “Along with those problems we fumbled the ball seven times. When you add all that up, we deserved to lose the game. The one thing I was pleased with was that the boys did not quit pushing and because of their resolve we obtained the lead with 59 seconds remaining, but then more mental mistakes cost us.”

Travis Unruh, who rushed for 149 yards and two scores, will always be the Eagles’ standout — that’s a given — but Patee lauded two other players.

“Caleb Sovde, on defense, had a huge game for us,” Patee said. “He brought the physicality and great motor that needs to stem from the linebacking core. Dylan Wood had a all-around good game. He ran to the ball well, made some plays against the pass and ran the ball hard.”

Peabody outlasted Goessel 42-36 in its season opener last week.

“Peabody will always be coached up and ready to play,” Patee said. “They seem to have the same problem as us, lost a lot of talent and have low numbers.  I am looking forward to how we bounce back after our first game.”

• Sterling at Smoky Valley •

The Vikings will attempt to bounce back in their home opener after being thoroughly dominated by Hesston 35-0, with all the points being scored in the first half.

“We need a lot of work getting used to a new system,” first-year Viking coach Tim Lambert said. “We made a lot of mistakes that are correctable.”

Sterling doubled Hillsboro 46-23 in its opener, so the Black Bears obviously are formidable offensively.

“Sterling is coming off of a big win for them,” Lambert said. “They will be ready to go.”

The Vikings will be trying to find a way to generate some offense. They were held to under 100 yards by the stout Hesston defense.

• Little River at Centre •

The Redskins’ season-opening 46-0 loss to Rural Vista was somewhat predictable, as they returned only a couple of starters while the Heat had nearly everybody back from a team that was edged by Little River in last year’s meeting.

Little River coach Paul Dold said it’s going to take time for the new starters to get acclimated.

“We did not play well at all, we looked like a very inexperienced team facing a superior opponent that was able to exploit all of our missed assignments and responsibilities,” Dold said.   “Many of our mistakes will be corrected with repetition in practice and in game situations.”

A couple of players who brought a smile to Dold’s face were sophomore Dillinger Page, who made some nice tackles off the bench, and senior defensive end Clayton Bettenbrock.

Centre suffered much the same fate as Little River, as the Cougars were point-ruled 52-0 by Solomon.

“We play Centre this week, but really we have to concentrate on taking care of our basic responsibilities and reads,” Dold said. “It is still early in the season and Centre did not get a chance to run much against Solomon in their first game, so still a very unknown team at this time.”

• Inman at Bennington •

The Teutons were in the game all the way last week against last year's Class 2-1A state runner-up Ell-Saline, losing only 31-21 after leading 7-0 early.

Bennington is coming off an impressive 35-6 victory over Remington. The Bulldogs are coming off a successful 5-4 season and have nine seniors back from that team.

Inman coach Ed Ramsey did not reply to the weekly press briefing.