There’s been a persistent thought since the start of the football season that the winner of Friday’s Moundridge-Inman district game in Moundridge will earn a Class 2-1A postseason berth while the loser may be on the outside looking in.
The Wildcats are just 1-4, but coming off a 20-19 district victory over winless Remington. The Teutons are winless in five games, but finally showed some offense last week in a 49-20 loss to Medicine Lodge.
The district is wide open as expected favorite Sedgwick is just 1-4 overall and Medicine Lodge is 2-3.
Inman coach Lance Sawyer knows the Moundridge game represents a chance for the Teutons to turn around their season. But he also knows the Wildcats may be better than their record indicates.
“Moundridge is coming off a solid win against Remington,” said Sawyer, whose team is hoping to repeat last year’s 17-14 victory. “They are solid up front on both sides of the ball. We are going to need to stop the run if we are going to compete.”
Sawyer said his team was much more competitive last week than the score indicates.
“Turnovers cost us. We did some good things on both sides of the ball, but turned the ball over in key situations,” Sawyer said. “We had a blocked punt that allowed them to go into the half up 7. We had some really good individual performances.”
Jack Doerksen had an amazing 20 tackles last week for the Teutons as he was all over the field. Mason Thiessen has developed into a top receiver after latching on to five balls for 68 yards and a score last week.
For Moundridge coach Jeremiah Meeks, he’s looking for his first win against Inman in the longtime rivalry. The Wildcats have some momentum after last week’s one-point win.
“We played really well, had a few mistakes that would have broken the game open for us,” Meeks said. “The kids battled hard and we played really well up front on both sides of the ball. We ran the ball well and Noah (Eichelberger) had another huge game for us. Defense played well, came up with some huge stops when we needed them.”
Eichelberger has developed into one of the top receivers in 2-1A, as he had 7 catches for 170 yards last week and is a home-run hitter that Inman will have to be concerned about.
Meeks is impressed with Inman despite its record.
“They will give you some problems with their passing game, they spread you out and run a bunch of different stuff that you have to prepare for,” he said.
• Little River at Central Plains — This game is in all likelihood for the district championship.
Both teams are 4-1, with Little River having won its last three games decisively while the Wildcats have won their last four and swamped Canton-Galva 60-0 last week.
Little River’s offense has been impressive, putting up nearly 54 points a game the last three weeks. But it hasn’t faced a defense quite like Claflin's and the game will be a measuring stick of where Little River stacks up in terms of the elite teams.
The Redskins had little trouble last week in hammering Goessel 57-12, but LR coach Chad Lafferty said it was somewhat indifferent.
"Last week's game was not a very clean game for us, we had way too many penalties that brought back good plays," Lafferty said. "Besides the penalties we played decent, but had very little emotion during the game which we will need to improve upon heading into future games."
The Redskins can't afford those mistakes this week as they must be nearly perfect.
"Central Plains will be a definite challenge for us this week," Lafferty said. "They have been the top team in our district the past couple years and still is the top team until someone in our district proves they can beat them. They are a very disciplined team who doesn't make mistakes. They are a very physical team that if you allow them to start running downhill on you it is very hard to stop them, if you can plug some holes and get their backs to run from side to side you give yourself a chance."
• Smoky Valley at Lyons — The Vikings are sky-high after their domination of Hesston and now have to avoid a letdown against the winless Lions.
Smoky Valley had its game with Hesston in running clock last week after getting up 49-6 before the Swathers closed within 49-20 by game’s end.
“We played pretty well in beating a good team,” said Viking coach Tim Lambert, whose team has won three in a row to improve to 4-1 overall. “No turnovers and 4 penalties.”
It’s been a tough year for the Lions, who are 0-5. They do have to be encouraged by their offensive production from last week in a 48-30 loss to Haven.
“They have a good quarterback and some good wide receivers, so we will have to be ready defensively,” Lambert said.
Lyons has been giving up piles of points, though. The least number it has allowed in a game is 32 and in three games it has allowed at least 48.
The Vikings begin district play next week against Rock Creek, a team they lost to last year. The Mustangs are 2-3 on the season, but have played an incredibly tough schedule. One of their wins, however, came against defending Class 3A champion Rossville.
• Canton-Galva at St. John — Now that they have Central Plains out of the way, a 60-0 setback, the Eagles can look ahead to a St. John team that is very low on numbers, but still has enough athletes to have compiled a 2-3 record.
"(Last) Friday night's result is obviously a very disappointing one and one nobody in our program is satisfied with," C-G coach Shelby Hoppes said. "Central Plains is a very well-coached football team with a lot of talent. That being said, we need to find a way to compete against teams of that stature."
St. John's wins came against Kinsley (56-24) and Ellinwood (30-22). In the three losses the Tigers have been point-ruled.
"They opened up Week One of district play with a win against Ellinwood last Friday," Hoppes said. "If we are disciplined, physical, and play with great energy it will be a very competitive game. It's an opportunity for our team to come out and play well and put the past two weeks performances in our rear view."
The 2-3 Eagles need this one if they're thinking playoffs.
"A district loss is obviously never a good thing, but we are early in the district season with four district games left on the schedule," Hoppes said. "That's four opportunities to play ourselves into a playoff spot, which is where every team is looking to get."
After this week, the Eagles host Little River in the game that figures to determine the second playoff representative. C-G finishes with Goessel and Ellinwood, teams it will be favored to defeat.
• Hesston at Kingman — The Swathers have played as tough a schedule as any team in Class 3A.
Hesston is just 2-3, the same record it had at this time last year when it took off on a nine-game winning streak.
But the Swathers have to fix their defense. They have been lit up for at least 28 points in every game but one.
Kingman is just another quality opponent on the schedule. After opening the season 1-2, it has won its last two games and scored 75 points in the process. The Eagles did lose 48-7 to Halstead, a team the Swathers defeated 37-22 in Week 2.
After this week, the Swathers open district play at Hillsboro.
Hesston coach Tyson Bauerle was not available for comment.