Homecoming, senior night, playoff hopes and district championships. Area teams will all be playing for something different this week as we edge closer and closer to the end of the regular season.
As always, go support your local team.
Cambridge (4-2) at Medicine Valley (6-0)
2016 result: Med Valley won 34-12
Beau’s pick: Med Valley
Comments: What a game we’re going to have in Curtis Friday night for the D1-9 District championship. Cambridge, which has won three straight, takes on an unbeaten Medicine Valley squad looking to clear its biggest remaining hurdle en-route to an perfect regular season record.
Both teams will feature run-heavy offenses led by thoroughbred running backs in Cambridge’s Taten Benson and Medicine Valley’s Landon Lenz. Last week, Benson eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and now leads all Gazette runners with 1,143 yards and 17 touchdowns. Lenz has been consistent all season, rushing for over 100 years in every Raider game, and has amassed 822 yards and 16 scores.
Trojan head coach Scott Porter has stressed his team will have to be sound fundamentally and have a “total team effort” if they want to claim their first district title in the eight-man ranks.
Chase County (4-3) at Minden (1-6)
2016 result: Chase County won 34-0
Beau: Chase County
Comments: After a 1-2 start, Chase County has won three of its last four to catapult itself into the C1-8 District title race.
The Longhorns have lost out on the chance of qualifying for the C1 playoffs as a wildcard team, so their only avenue for the postseason lies in winning their district. Friday’s game at Minden will be the Longhorns’ final non-district opponent, rendering its result meaningless for Chase County’s postseason considerations, but it will be a great opportunity to fine tune things heading into Week 9’s pivotal contest against Chadron.
Minden is going through a rebuild and it reflects with their record. The Whippets’ quarterback, running back and receiving corps are all sophomores and freshmen, so this season will offer plenty of chances to gain varsity experience. Statistically, Eduardo Gonzalez is Minden’s top threat, averaging 115 rushing yards per game.
Hastings St. Cecilia (2-5) at Southern Valley (0-7)
2016 result: St. Cecilia won 30-14
Beau: St. Cecilia
Comments: Southern Valley closes out its 2017 home schedule with a Week 8 contest against Hastings St. Cecilia.
If you looked at this by names alone, you’d pick St. Cecilia in a walk. However, the Bluehawks are having an uncharacteristically down year. Part of this is due to STC’s tough schedule (the five opponents to beat them are a combined 27-8) but it’s also partly due to an offense that has struggled to move the ball. Entering Week 8, STC’s averaging just under 10 points per game. Defense is a strong point, as the Bluehawks have allowed 19 points per contest.
Southern Valley found points last week via its defense. Given STC’s struggles on offense, it may not be a stretch to say the Eagles can have similar success this week. However, the Eagles will need to find ways to move the chains if they want to get off the schneid Friday night.
Hill City, Kan. (4-2) at Decatur Community, Kan. (2-4)
2016 result: Hill City won 68-36
Beau: Hill City
Comments: Decatur Community has taken care of business the last two weeks against beatable opponents. But, make no mistake, a win over Hill City this week would be the Red Devils’ biggest win in recent years.
The Ringnecks head to Oberlin, Kan., with a balanced attack that averages 196 yards on the ground and another 150 yards through the air. The Ringnecks’ passing attack has gone through two receivers: Garrett Handley and Dalton Stephen, who have combined for 815 of Hill City’s 898 passing yards and 10 of 11 touchdowns. The biggest challenge, however, may be containing quarterback Ethan Hamel, who has 1,402 yards of total offense and 20 total touchdowns.
Hitchcock County (1-5) at Arapahoe (5-1)
2016 result: Arapahoe won 56-7
Comments: Hitchcock County head coach Dusty Gaston didn’t mince words when asked about the scouting report on Arapahoe.
It starts and nearly ends with quarterback Gentry Anderson.
“There’s no question Gentry Anderson is a stud,” Gaston said. “I don’t know if you can really contain him, but you gotta try limiting what he does for their offense.”
Anderson has run for 703 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. The junior averages over nine yards per carry and has thrown for an addition 403 yards. Anderson’s numbers are deceiving, however, due to playing a limited amount in the second half of most games this season.
Meanwhile, Hitchcock County has found a groove on offense. The Falcons have scored at least 30 points in each of its last two games, and the development of their young skill position players continue to trend in the right direction.
However, it’s defense where the Falcons need work. According to Gaston, the biggest hurdle has been playing assignment football.
“We’ve been focusing on understanding our roles on defense. We’ve had kids try to do too much and that leads to other areas the offense can exploit.”
Two players Hitchcock County lean on defensively are veterans Zach Janousek and Wes Merrill.
“Zach is a little bit of an undersized middle linebacker, but he’s got a great nose for the football,” Gaston commented. “As for Wes, I don’t think I’ve ever had a more coachable kid. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him. Both of them have been leaders for us and a lot of it is due to experience.”
With a win, Arapahoe would clinch the D2-8 District title and an automatic berth to the playoffs.
Loomis (3-3) at Wauneta-Palisade (3-3)
2016 result: Loomis won 62-29
Beau’s pick: Wauneta-Palisade
Comments: Wauneta-Palisade currently clings to one of the final playoff spots in Class D2, but a win Friday night would go a long way towards the Broncos’ postseason chances.
If you go by results against common opponents, Wauneta-Palisade wins this one. After last week’s 62-0 demolition of Eustis-Farnam, it’s not too crazy to consider the Broncos favorites anyway. Wauneta-Palisade put on a strong performance against the Knights’ rushing attack, and should carry that over to this week against another run-based offense.
Morrill (1-5) at Dundy County-Stratton (3-3)
2016 result: DCS won 70-0
Beau’s pick: DCS
Comments: Dundy County-Stratton got back on track last week with a 40-18 win at Sutherland. The Tigers return home to face a 1-5 Morrill squad that has been outscored 166-24 in its last three games.
The Lions do most of their damage on the ground. Junior quarterback Tanner Whetham leads the team with 412 yards and three touchdowns, while throwing for just 81 yards and one score.
After the loss to Southwest, DCS has shown a commitment to playing more physical. Three Tigers rushed for over 100 yards last week, and the modus operandi for Friday night should remain the same.
Quinter, Kan. (0-6) at Rawlins County, Kan. (4-1)
2016 result: Rawlins County won 48-0
Beau’s pick: Rawlins County
Comments: Talk about a change. One week after defeating a St. Francis squad that was ranked No. 1 in Eight-Man I, the Buffaloes come home to host a Quinter program that hasn’t won a game since 2014.
With the toughest part of the schedule behind it, Rawlins County will be focusing on finishing the regular season with three more wins. In a tough District 8, the Buffs aren’t even guaranteed a playoff spot with a 7-1 record.
Southwest (2-4) at Bertrand (1-5), 7 p.m.
2016 result: Southwest won 28-20
Beau’s pick: Bertrand
Comments: Despite having just one win, Bertrand is not going to be an easy opponent for Southwest. The Vikings have lost their last two games by four and eight points, respectively, and were neck-and-neck with Cambridge at halftime in Week 5.
Having said that, this is the type of game Southwest should be winning if it wants to make the playoffs. After scoring 58 against Dundy County-Stratton, the Roughriders have been held to six points in each of their last two games.