Many, many years ago, the Little River-Canton-Galva football rivalry was among the top small-school showdowns in Kansas.
Back in the early 1980s of Little River’s Wempe brothers and a galaxy of stars for Canton-Galva, the importance of the game was immeasurable.
They’re now back in the same league with Canton-Galva having joined the Wheat State League this year, but more importantly they’re in the same district and a playoff berth could very well be on the line Friday when they clash in Little River.
Both teams are 1-1 in district play, with each losing to probable district champion Central Plains. There’s a wild scramble for that second spot and Friday's winner can take a huge step forward.
Canton-Galva is riding a wave of momentum after winning for the first time this season last week against St. John, 62-26.
“We did a great job of relaxing and having fun playing football,” C-G coach Dustin Patee said. “Because of this we had fewer turnovers, executed better and out-hit our opponent. Our hitting was the biggest reason we won, they did not want to play after half.”
The Eagles also piled up monster offensive numbers, led by quarterback Reed Wiens and the versatile Dylan Wood. Both had career nights as the Eagles went up and down the field unabated.
Patee has been keeping a close eye on Little River as he has maintained all season this could be a state-qualifying decider.
“Little River will try to wear us down by running the football and hitting on defense,” Patee said. “They do not give up or fade from contact. However, they do not make plays the way we are capable of. We must stop their run early and establish a lead, forcing them to throw.”
Little River is coming off a lopsided loss to Central Plains, but that wasn’t totally unexpected since the Oilers are perhaps the state’s best 8-man team.
“We did a good job defensively stopping Central Plains' running game between the ends, but fell short defending the pass and outside running game,” Little River coach Paul Dold said. “Central Plains is very good and athletic across the board.”
Dold said his team can make up for its 2-4 start with a final big push the last three games.
“Despite an underachieving season to date, we still have a chance to come out of our district if we can restore the Redskin pride in playing good football,” Dold said. “Canton-Galva this week has some very good athletes and schemes that will be tough to deal with. Last year they threw a defense against us that we were not expecting, so we have to be ready for anything. I know their players will be amped up to play, our guys need to be ready to respond.”
• Smoky Valley at Rock Creek — Smoky Valley can only hope its pre-district success can carry over to Friday.
The Vikings begin district play by taking on Rock Creek.
The Vikings head into the district with a full head of steam after routing Lyons 50-0 last week.
“I thought we played well as a team and got better,” said Smoky Valley coach Tim Lambert, whose team is 4-2 on the year after going 2-7 last season. “We play Rock Creek this week and need to continue to prepare the same way we have in the past and continue to get better. They run the ball most of the time with a very good play-action pass game. We need to stop their run game and keep the ball on offense.”
Rock Creek, 1-5, has played a demanding schedule, with its lone win coming last week against St. Mary’s, 35-7.
Until then, among the losses had been to solid program such as Wamego, Rossville and Silver Lake.
Smoky Valley’s other district foes are Chapman and Clay Center. Like Rock Creek, Chapman is just 1-5 on the season. Clay Center fell to 3-3 after losing 35-14 last week to McPherson district opponent Abilene, which is 6-0.
• Inman at Remington — The Teutons can stay perfect in district play with a win over winless Remington and close in on making the playoffs.
The Teutons, after starting 0-4, have recovered with narrow wins over Medicine Lodge (10-7) and Moundridge (17-14).
"Friday was a big win for our program," Inman coach Lance Sawyer said of the victory over Moundridge. "We struggled turning the ball over, but still found a way to win."
The Teutons' defensive charge was led by Ethan DeWitt.
"Ethan DeWitt continues to play at a high level week after week," Sawyer said. "Ethan had 12 tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He also had the touchdown catch to put us up by 10. Lucas Barlow and Tyler Gordon also played well. Lucas was in on 11 tackles, had 2 sacks and 2 tackles for loss. Tyler was in on 9 tackles."
For the second straight week, kicker Taiten Winkel came up with a field goal and his kicks have provided the Teutons with back-t0-back three-point wins.
The Broncos stepped out of district play last week with a 58-12 loss to Meade. In the district, they’re 0-1 as they lost 34-30 to Moundridge. They play next week at Sedgwick before closing against Medicine Lodge.
"Remington does some things on the offensive and defensive end really well," Sawyer said. "They came out throwing against Meade and drove the ball down the field and scored on their opening possession. Kyle Thiessen throws the ball well. He has a quick release and can put the ball in tough spots. They will run a 4-3 defense. They have linebackers that fill and pursue the ball really well."
• Sedgwick at Moundridge — The Wildcats can throw their district into a hullabaloo should they upset Sedgwick.
The Wildcats suffered a 17-14 loss last week to Inman, but they have to put that game behind them. A loss to Sedgwick and an Inman win over Remington would basically seal the Wildcats’ fate.
The Cardinals are 4-2, but have played only one district game. They routed Medicine Lodge 61-28 and still have to play next week against Remington before closing against Inman.
The Wildcats’ defense played well last week, forcing six Inman turnovers. But they couldn’t capitalize on their good fortune.
• Hillsboro at Hesston — The Swathers are a heavy favorite to open their powerful district on a winning note.
The Swathers are back on track after a 1-3 start, having knocked off Smoky Valley and Kingman in convincing fashion the last two weeks by a combined score of 70-7.
Looking at a comparative score, the Swathers defeated Smoky Valley 35-0, while the Trojans lost to the Vikings, 36-16.
Other than Hillsboro, this is a tremendous district. Southeast of Saline and Marion are both 6-0, so a very good team is going to be left at home.