LINDSBORG — Former Bethany College and Hall of Fame coach Ted Kessinger is going to be proud Friday night no matter what happens.
For the second week in a row, Kessinger’s proteges will be on opposite sidelines when Smoky Valley travels to Pratt for the second round of the Class 4A Division II playoffs.
The 8-2 Vikings are coached by former Swede Tim Lambert, while 9-1 Pratt is led by Jamie Cruce, who was a one-time head coach at Bethany after a stellar playing career under Kessinger.
Smoky Valley advanced with a 21-20 overtime victory over Nickerson, coached by another Kessinger player Mike Vernon — who also enjoyed great success at Inman.
Pratt exploded for a 49-26 win over Colby to extend its season another week.
Lambert, whose Vikings were 2-7 last year, says he’s got a blue-collar team that does nothing flashy, but plays with determination.
“We play hard and we play for the whole game,” Lambert said. “We make mistakes, but just keep on playing hard and I think that is the key to our success down the stretch.”
The Vikings have won five in a row, with a time-consuming offense the difference. They line up in a wishbone and run the ball down the opponents’ throats. They typically run it 60 to 65 times a game and keep the ball away from their opponent.
“Our offensive line has really been good (Alex Goodwin, Skyler DeMott, Ethan Wampler, Allan Wampler and Beck Elliott), along with our fullback Riley Odell and tailback Kyle Anderson,” Lambert said.
Anderson scored all three Viking touchdowns last week and is over 1,000 yards for the season. Odell is nails-tough, while quarterback Brett Heitschmidt,who like Anderson and Odell is a junior, makes it all go with decisive reads.
The Viking defense has gotten better as the season goes along.
“Our defense has played very consistent as well,” Lambert said. “Pratt is very good. For us to win we will need eliminate turnovers and keep the ball away from their speed on offense.”
Cruce’s Greenbacks have won five straight since their only loss of the year, 32-14 to Hoisington. They won their district with wins over Hugoton (31-28), Holcomb (35-28) and Kingman (35-0). They also have a 55-26 victory over Nickerson to credit for those into comparative scores.
The winner of Friday’s game goes up against the winner of Wichita Collegiate-Holcomb.