Had Smoky Valley and Hesston met last year, they would have determined the undisputed Central Kansas League football champion as they won their respective divisions with 6-0 records.
But with the reconfigured CKL this year, the two 2013 champions will meet Friday to perhaps determine East supremacy.
The Vikings will serve as the host at what is expected to be a packed Anderson Stadium. Game time is 7 p.m.
96.7 KBBE-FM will be providing coverage with Nick Gosnell and Steve Sell on the call.
Both teams are coming off two-loss seasons, the Swathers at 8-2 and the Vikings at 7-2. Smoky Valley ripped through the CKL, but was in a devil of a district that included McPherson, Abilene and Chapman.
Viking coach Chris Hattabaugh has exuded enthusiasm in the preseason and said his team has gotten over the drag of the second week of practice.
“I think each team goes through that Week 2 lull and now they are pumped that it is game week,” Hattbaugh said.
Even though they’ve lost their most experienced offensive weapon Jarod DeMott to a season-ending knee injury, Hattabaugh remains steadfast that he’s going to have a good team. However, Hesston should provide quite a measuring stick.
“Hesston is a good football team,” he said. “They are big and physical. We must match their physicality and be disciplined.”
For the Vikings to triumph, Cole Norberg must step up in his first start at quarterback and direct the attack as mistake-free as possible.
“Cole Norberg is a true dual-threat quarterback,” Hattabaugh said.
Perhaps most impressive in the preseason has been two-way lineman Stephen Klaassen.
“Stephen Klaassen is a lot stronger and more physical than we have seen him in the past,” Hattabaugh said. “He should be dominant on the O and D lines.”
In addition to DeMott being out, the Vikings are suffering from the loss of expected mainstay Brix Brickey at defensive tackle as he's sidelined with an injury.
For Hesston, nearly all of its starters are back, except for Ryan Schadler and Wyatt McKinney, arguably two of the best players in Hesston history. Schadler scored 42 touchdowns last year and rushed for nearly 2,500 yards while McKinney directed the thrill-a-minute offense.
Second-year coach Clint Rider is concentrating on the players he has, not dwelling on the ones he’s lost.
“I'm not sure as a coach you ever feel fully prepared especially before the first game of the season, but we have had a good first few weeks of practice and our players are itching to get out under the lights and see where we are,” he said. “I'm very confident in our players' ability to execute in pressure situations.”
Rider has great respect for what the Vikings bring to the table.
“Smoky Valley is a big, physical opponent,” he said. “We are going to have our hands full with the amount of size they have up front. We feel like Friday will be a hard-fought game and are excited that we are playing one another again, because of the great history between the two schools. They run the ball well. Smoky Valley is very good at being patient in the running game then hitting a big one on you over the top when you start creeping up. Obviously they love to run midline, veer, and toss and they are good at each of those.”
While the Swathers are flush with returning starters, two players have really caught Rider’s eye.
“Scott Duerksen and Cole Rostetter are two of the most improved guys on our squad at both defensive back and wide receiver,” he said. “With their contributions and experience from last season, they will help provide great depth to their positions.”
• Marion at Moundridge •
The Wildcats’ last game of 2013 will be their first game of 2014.
Moundridge and Marion were in the same district last year when both were 3A schools. The Wildcats fought the good fight in last year’s meeting, down just 7-0 at the half before succumbing 27-0.
Wildcat coach Courtney Moddelmog, whose team has returned to 2A, says there’s a lot to prepare for.
“They will run the option well and are always physical up front,” said Moddelmog, whose team is coming off a 3-6 season. “Adam Janzen is a senior All-League running back and Kyle Palic will be a force at the middle linebacker position as he also received post season awards last year.”
Moddelmog said his young team will look to a pair of seniors, Deshawn Pfeiff and Nick Vogts. “They have done a nice job all summer getting in the weight room and now during camp,” Moddelmog said. “They realize it’s their last go-around.”
The Wildcats are anxious to get going.
“I’m ready to see where we are at,” Moddelmog said. “It's always hard to tell what level you are on until you see a different color jersey.”
• Canton-Galva at Central Christian •
The Eagles have dominated Central Christian during the first two years of the Jeff Savage coaching regime.
C-G, however, is having to replace many of the standouts who had a hand in the routs of the Cougars.
The Eagles, coming off a winning 5-4 season, auditioned during last Friday’s scrimmage and Savage came away relatively pleased.
“Our scrimmage went well,” he said. “Our first offense ran 30 plays and executed well for only two weeks of practice. Our defense has been our focus and we are spending a huge amount of time on defensive skills, drills and techniques.”
Savage has been encouraged by the development of Travis Unruh at quarterback. “He will give us a dual threat from that position,” he said.
Central Christian typically has little depth, but never backs down.
“Central Christian will be low on numbers, but will be solid in the backfield which is a key in 8-man football,” Savage said. “Our thoughts are to play at 100 percent effort on every snap and learn how to compete on defense. Central Christian has a solid run game out of the I-formation and runs a little option from time to time. We need to align and read our keys, come off blocks and run to the football.”
• Little River at Rural Vista •
This is the first year that Hope and White City have joined forces in football to form Rural Vista.
That means it is getting the best from both schools and that will provide a good test for the senior-laden Redskins, who basically return their same team from last year.
“Coach (Jeff) Hostetter from Hope is an experienced coach with a reputation for having tough, savvy teams and now he has more players to work with,” Little River coach Paul Dold said. “Rural Vista will be disciplined on defense and will definitely be ready for our option game. Offensively, they spread the field and will throw the ball well as well run as the option game and traps from their spread sets.”
The Redskins’ experience has been evident in practice with several players stepping up to fill the leadership role, one reason they’re expected to improve on last year’s 4-5 season.
“Colin January as a linebacker and offensive lineman, Chord Zeller as a defensive end and offensive lineman, and Grant Harvey as a tailback and safety are the three that have stood out the most,” Dold said. “The rest of our seniors have taken well to the leadership role.”
• Inman at Ell-Saline •
The Ed Ramsey era kicks off Friday for the Teutons, who are coming off back-to-back 6-3 seasons.
Much of the talent that produced those winning years has moved on. Ramsey has a team that is short on experience and adjusting to a new system. He also doesn't have a lot of numbers to work with.
Ell-Saline is coming off a 5-4 season and has a wealth of experience.
Attempts to contact Ramsey were unsuccessful.