Moundridge football coach Courtney Moddelmog has never seen anything quite like it.
Every week it seems as though his Wildcats lose another key piece to their puzzle to injury.
Yet, despite all the losses, the Wildcats—inconceivably — are just one more win away from qualifying for the Class 2-1A playoffs.
Moundridge is just 2-5 on the year, but more importantly 2-0 in district play. If it can knock off Sacred Heart at home Friday night, it is assured of advancing to a 10th week of play. It closes the season next week at district power Sedgwick, so the importance on this week's game can't be overstated.
Moddelmog said his team is working with a squad size of 20, several of them freshmen. Among the losses have been emotional heartbreat DeShawn Pfeiff, and starting quarterbacks Anthony Otte and Kyle Stucky.
Pfeiff was the latest to go down and his loss is the most damaging. It occurred before the Wildcats took on Remington and the result was a 42-0 loss.
“We were very flat and played like we lost our motor, which essentially was the case since we lost DeShawn Pfeiff for the year,” Moddelmog said.
But the team is back up mentally this week since it knows Sacred Heart is in a similar boat.
“Sacred Heart has lost some numbers like us, but does start six seniors,” Moddelmog said. “They run multiple formations and can run counter-trey out of any of them and to multiple players. Their quarterback is athletic and wants to run first, but can throw. Their fullback is a load at 5-7 and 205 pounds. Defensively they traditionally like to bring pressure and if you want to run they will put nine in the box at times and dare you to throw.”
That puts the onus on MHS freshman quarterback Mason Dyck, who was the one bright spot last week in the loss to Remington as he rushed for 58 yards.
“Mason Dyck did a decent job of running the offense and keeping his composure,” Moddelmog said. “He also did a nice job defensively filling the alleys from his free safety position.”
Sacred Heart is 3-4, but coming off a rousing 61-12 pummeling of Medicine Lodge. The week before the Knights were a 24-7 winner over Inman, a team the Wildcats beat 12-6.
• Smoky Valley at Wamego — This is a matchup of teams 1-0 in district play, with the winner moving on and the loser battling for the second spot.
Smoky Valley comes in 4-3 while the Red Raiders are 6-1.
“Wamego is a very good football team,” said Smoky Valley coach Chris Hattabaugh, whose team outlasted Nickerson 14-2 in a much closer game than anticipated last week. “They don't put up a ton of points, but have a good quarterback and slot receiver. Their defense is really good so we must scheme them up well and be physical to have success.”
The Red Raiders began district play last week with a 20-6 win over Chapman. Their only loss was 25-14 to Abilene.
Hattabaugh was hoping for a more impressive performance last week as the Vikings were down 2-0 at the half.
“Our defense was really solid,” Hattabaugh said. “We created a couple of turnovers and did not allow any offensive points. We sacked the quarterback four times and had many quarterback hurries. Offensively we ran it well, but really missed some easy opportunities in the passing game.”
Kyle Anderson and Brandon Archuleta led the defensive charge. Anderson is only a freshman and had a big game while Archuleta had eight tackles and an interception.
The Vikings have gotten a bit healthier with the return of Aaron Taylor at running back to augment the season-long brilliance of quarterback Cole Norberg, who has rushed for 1,206 yards and thrown for another 406. Taylor has 414 yards rushing and averages nearly six yards a carry.
Smoky Valley hosts Chapman next week in the regular-season finale that figures to have huge ramifications.
• Little River at Ellinwood — The Redskins stayed alive for a playoff berth last week, but paid a heavy price as top offensive threat Grant Harvey was lost to a concussion and will be out this week.
Thus the Redskins must replace 729 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. At least the good news is that fullback Laramie Peters returned last week from a shoulder injury suffered in Game 1 after it was thought he’d be out for the year.
The Redskins used a 20-0 second-quarter bulge to win going away against Canton-Galva, 48-26.
“We played very well for the first half of the game and then let Canton-Galva get some things going in the second half and held on for the win,” Little River coach Paul Dold said.
Players who caught his eye included Chord Zeller at defensive end, and Colin January and Kyler Cox at linebackers.
This will be the Redskins’ first game against Ellinwood, which is playing 8-man for the first time.
“We have never played Ellinwood before. They look big on film and made Central Plains work hard for their first couple scores with their physical play on defense,” Dold said.
The Eagles are 3-4 on the year, including the 50-0 loss to Central Plains. Most of their losses have been of the blowout variety.
If the Redskins win, it figures to be all on the line next week when Little River plays Solomon, a team Ellinwood lost to 54-28.
• Hesston at Council Grove — The Swathers can move to 2-0 in the district against a Council Grove team that was hammered 55-14 by Southeast of Saline last week in its first district game.
Hesston is coming off a 56-14 rout of Hillsboro to move to 7-0 overall.
"We got off to somewhat of a slow start, but after a bad possession by our offense and defense we really got on track," Hesston coach Clint Rider said. "Our players executed really well and put together a pretty complete game. Hillsboro plays very hard so we needed to have a good outing."
As usual, there were some big performances.
"Braden Weber had a great game defensively with a couple of sacks and found himself in their backfield quite often." Rider said. "Brad Simpson had a good game as well defensively and Justin Smith had an interception. Offensively, Grant Raleigh had another big night on the ground with over 225 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Tyler McCartney had a really nice touchdown catch making a nifty move on the defender in the open field."
Council Grove had been flying with a 5-1 start, but thudded to earth last week. Still, Rider said the Swathers have to focus on the matter at hand and not look ahead toward the expected district decider next week at Southeast of Saline.
"Council Grove had a tough outing against a very good Southeast of Saline team," Rider said. "Things didn't get off to a good start and spiraled from there. I think they are a better team than what showed last Friday. They run a combination of sets offensively from the wishbone to a four-wide spread offense so we will be tested in all ways defensively. They played man-to-man coverage all game last week and have shown some Cover 3 in games past on defense. They will play either a 4 or 5-man front and mix up those alignments."
• Goessel at Canton-Galva — The Eagles are 3-4, but both of their remaining games are winnable as they try to put together a second straight winning season under coach Jeff Savage.
There's really nothing else on the line since both schools are out of the playoff picture.
Canton-Galva played Little River tough early last week, but the Redskins took command with a 20-0 second quarter on their way to a 48-26 victory.
"Little River was simply more physical, we had a tough time running the ball," Savage said. "They found our weakness by spreading on offense and putting our kids in space."
The loss spoiled yet another fine game by Eagle quarterback Travis Unruh, who threw three touchdown passes while finishing as the top C-G tackler. Tanner Klingensmith had seven catches for 66 yards.
The Bluebirds are just 1-6, the victory coming against Sylvan Lucas (40-32). They were swamped by Little River, 54-8, and last week were blasted by Solomon (44-8).
"Goessel is better than last season, but not in the competition we have faced the last three weeks," Savage said. "We hope to be at full strength and need to be more physical on both sides of the ball."
• Inman at Troy — This is a somewhat strange non-district game for the Teutons, who probably wish they could have picked on somebody not quite as strong.
The Trojans have blasted away to a 6-1 record, the only defeat at the hands of Centralia-Wetmore. They pounded Doniphan West 49-0 last week and nearly all of their wins have been by blowout scores.
Inman scored two touchdowns in a game for the first time last week, but the Teutons are still seeking their first win. They close the season next week against Medicine Lodge, a team they should match up well with.
Inman coach Ed Ramsey was unavailable for comment.