As strange as it sounds, losing last week to Central Plains could send the Little River Redskins off on a hot streak to close out the regular season.
The Redskins not only were the first team to take the powerhouse Oilers past a half, but they were in the game all the way, losing only 22-6.
"We played our best football of the year," said Little River coach Paul Dold, whose team is now 3-3. "Even though we lost by a couple of scores, I was very pleased with our effort and execution against a superior team of athletes. Defensively we made them work for all their yards, never giving up a big play and while they had a couple long drives, we made them drive the ball for the majority of the first and third quarters with a single possession."
The Redskins will take that good vibe into Friday's home game against old rival Canton-Galva in what is a key district showdown.
"They played a hard-hitting game against Solomon (last week) and have had our number in recent years," Dold said. "We will have to play even better than last week if we are to be lucky enough to win."
The Redskins are in a three-way battle with Canton-Galva and Solomon for the expected No. 2 spot in the district behind Central Plains.
Dold said the Eagles pose a number of problems.
"Their quarterback and safety Travis Unruh is their go-to guy with Trey Moddelmog and Tanner Klingensmith being favorite receivers," said Dold, noting the Eagles are effective both running and passing the ball.
The Eagles will be looking to shut down a Redskin offense that relies on the running of Grant Harvey, who is averaging a shade under 100 yards a game.
Meanwhile, Canton-Galva coach Jeff Savage greatly respects the task at hand for his team.
"We have our work cut out this week with a physical Little River team," Savage said. "We need to hold on to the ball and stop giving it away. We need to step up on third and fourth downs and play better defense as well."
Savage said the Eagles may be as healthy as they've been in a long time.
"We may have a full team for Little River and we'll need it to have a chance," he said.
• Moundridge at Remington — Through all the injuries and lack of numbers, the Moundridge Wildcats are still in position to make postseason play.
However this week, they’ll step out of district play to take on Remington in an attempt to pull within one game of the .500 mark.
Moundridge has won back-to-back games — both in district play — after starting the season with four losses. Should MHS win one of its final two games, it would qualify for the postseason.
And that’s despite the fact Wildcat coach Courtney Moddelmog is holding this team together with miles of athletic tape.
The Wildcats were a 26-7 winner last week over Medicine Lodge in their best effort of the year. But they lost quarterback Kyle Stucky, who joins former starter Anthony Otte on the sidelines. Freshman Mason Dyck now takes his turn at the reigns.
Dyck may do little more than hand off. MHS backs DeShawn Pfeiff, Joel Holloway and Damian Calderon all reached the 100-yard mark last week. Pfeiff has 443 yards for the year and Holloway is right behind at 434.
“I felt the offensive line did some good things up front that helped all three backs get to 100 yards,” Moddelmog said.
Remington is 2-4 on the year, including a 34-14 win over Yates Center last week.
“Remington will be solid up front with some good skill players,” Moddelmog said. “They want to run right at you and over you, which has usually been their mentality even when they were throwing the ball.”
• Inman at Sedgwick — The Teutons are trying, but the wins just haven’t been there during an 0-6 start, including last week’s 24-7 loss to Sacred Heart.
“We are still competing. We are not giving up,” said Inman coach Ed Ramsey, whose team scored on its first possession of the game last week on a run by Ty Strange and then did little else.
The Teutons are probably matched against the wrong team to end their victory drought. Sedgwick is the team to beat in their district.
“Sedgwick is a very solid, very balanced team,” Ramsey said.
It is 4-2 on the year, with losses to Trinity Catholic and Phillipsburg. In the Cardinals’ four wins, they have averaged about 40 points a game.
• Hillsboro at Hesston — While McPherson High is in the top district in Class 4A Division I, the Swathers are involved in arguably the best district in Class 3A.
Hesston, Southeast of Saline and Council Grove are a combined 16-2, with the Swathers, of course, 6-0.
But Hesston coach Clint Rider said his team can’t overlook the fourth team, Hillsboro, which is 2-4.
“Hillsboro is a team that has been improving each week,” Rider said. “Their quarterback, (Justus) Hilliard, is a definite run threat and can break off huge runs. He's very tough to bring down and has good agility. They had a chance to win at Smoky Valley and had a big win against Lyons last week. We know we will get their very best shot.”
Hesston is coming off a 49-39 shootout with Pratt.
“Pratt played a great game and had a great game plan,” Rider said. “We didn't do a good job of stopping the outside run, and our second-half offense didn't resemble anything it looked like in the first half. We turned the ball over to start the second half and had another turnover two series later. We are not typically a turnover-prone team, but the last two weeks turnovers have hurt us. I don't feel as though we played our best game, but credit Pratt with taking us out of some comfortable situations. They are a team that has improved each week and is playing some great football.”
Scott Duerksen was immense for Hesston last week with four TD catches from Grant Raleigh and had 164 yards in receiving. “Scott has really become a reliable threat for us at receiver and catches just about anything thrown his way,” Rider said.
Raleigh has thrown for 1,201 yards and 18 TDs, while rushing for 932 yards and 12 more scores. Zach Esau and Tyler McCartney have 22 and 18 catches, respectively. Duerksen has 15, but they’ve been good for 300 yards — 20 yards a pop.
• Nickerson at Smoky Valley — The Vikes begin district play and if they’re to advance, they must get past 1-5 Nickerson before stepping up in competition.
Smoky Valley, which has been decimated with injuries, has lost back-to-back games to fall to 3-3, the same record as Chapman, while Wamego is the district favorite at 5-1.
“We played fairly clean football, we just got handled on the offensive and defensive lines,” Smoky Valley coach Chris Hattabaugh said of last week’s 43-12 loss to once-beaten Hoisington. “Too many second-and-long plays. We won the turnover and penalty battle, but struggled on the line of scrimmage and they returned a kickoff for a score to open the game.”
Cole Norberg continued his All-State-type season with 26 carries for 109 yards. Kaj Sjogren filled in nicely for the injured Aaron Taylor and added 64 yards on 12 totes. Norberg went over the 1,000-yard mark with 1,058 on 162 carries with 12 touchdowns.
Hattabaugh did say that Taylor will be back this week, along with two other injured players, Benton VanDerWege and Wesley Johnson, which should help a lot.
Hattabaugh noted that freshman Riley O’Dell was again the top tackler last week with seven and he leads the team on the season with 45. Hattabaugh hasn’t been afraid to put freshmen on the field as he has a few in his starting lineup.
Nickerson isn’t a team that the Vikings can just show up and play despite its record.
“Nickerson is a dangerous team. They have some size and their quarterback throws a nice ball,” Hattabaugh said.