Previewing all McPherson County high school football games for Friday night.
McPherson at Buhler
BUHLER — This game is the equivalent of a Florida State versus Alabama on the high school level as these rivals clash to open the 2017 season. For Bullpups they have to hope it is a low scoring affair and with eight returning starters on defense that plays into their strength. Buhler will likely have to take to the air to win.
On offense the biggest question marks for Mac are on the offensive line and quarterback, two positions that had great senior leadership last year. Only game action will tell who will emerge from each group. Football wisdom says the Pups will have to be able to run enough to open up the passing game. Win or lose expect to see both teams playing in November. This is the kind of game true football fans relish to get the season started.
Halstead at Smoky Valley
LINDSBORG — Forget McGregor against Mayweather, this is a bigger match up than that. Smoky Valley is coming off of their best season in a decade, having finished last year at 8-3 and losing in the playoffs to eventual state champion Pratt. This year's team could be even better with the Vikings loaded in the offensive backfield and looking to pound the ball early and often.
Smoky returns seven starters on each side of the ball with the biggest area to shore up being upfront on the offense. Four offensive lineman have moved on from graduation and underclassmen are going to be looked to, to fill the void. Halstead won last year's opener 36-6. Look for this year's game to be closer with both teams having their chances at the end.
Hutchinson Trinity at Inman
INMAN - These two teams combined for 79 points in last year's opener, with Trinity getting the best of Inman 46-33. The Teutons offense has high expectations with the return of their quarterback, who threw for 1,021 yards in just five games last year, as well as, four of their five offensive lineman. If Inman can muster enough of a running game to keep the Celtics honest, their passing game could crank out points.
For Inman the biggest factor will be stamina, as six of their returning starters on each side of the ball are the same six guys, meaning a lot of players going both ways. With a new defensive coordinator and scheme the Teutons will have to learn quick or find themselves having to score lots of points to win. This game rests on just how strong the Inman defense turns out to be but things look good for the orange and black.
Marion at Moundridge
MOUNDRIDGE — Coming off a playoff season last year and with 11 seniors and 13 returning letterman, Moundridge is loaded with talent, giving them their best shot at winning their district in years. That said, the Cats have not beaten Marion since these seniors were in elementary school and that weighs heavy on the Moundridge faithful.
Where is Moundridge weak? Not sure who their kicker is but that might be it. With Moundridge facing the likelihood of going 8-man starting next season, players, coaches and fans have high hopes that the Cats will be a force to be reckoned with in the final season of 11-man play. If Moundridge is leading or close in the fourth quarter, this could be their first of several upsets on their road to the playoffs this year.
Canton-Galva at Solomon
SOLOMON — Not sure if David's first fight was against Goliath but, for Canton-Galva's new head coach Shelby Hoppes that is the kind of task he faces with his team. Hoppes was named head coach late in the summer, moving up from the head middle school football position he previously held. While he built a solid middle school program that included an undefeated season last year, his varsity team is likely a year or two away.
Solomon is Hoppes' Goliath and is a perennial playoff team , having put 62 points on the board in last year's opener, beating the Eagles 62-16. The Eagles return five starters on each side of the ball but, like Inman, it is the same group of guys. Eagles' fans love to win but they also know the reality of the situation. With an unexpected coaching change and only three upperclassman, Canton-Galva will look to get better every week, stay healthy and continue to build their program for the promising future that is just around the corner.
Little River at Centre
LOST SPRINGS — The Little River Redskins also debut a new head coach this year, having promoted from within in naming Chad Lafferty head coach of the program. Little River returns five of eight players on each side of the ball but like many 8-man teams, several players will see action both ways. Replacing their quarterback position is the most daunting task for Lafferty going into the 2017 season.
Centre beat the Eagles in last year's opener 34-28 at Little River and you can be sure the entire Redskins nation is aware of that fact. Little River rode a roller coaster of wins and losses over the final six weeks last season to get themselves into the playoffs with a final game win. Expect the Redskins to avenge last year's loss to Centre and to get into the playoffs once again but they will have to work for it.