ALMA -- The Sweet Springs and Santa Fe football teams both went down to the wire last week.
While one club couldn't have asked for a better finish, the other couldn't have had a worse one. Junior Nathan Vogelsmeier returned a punt 90 yards with 35 seconds remaining to give the Greyhounds a 34-30 decision over Orrick, while the Chiefs blew a 19-point lead in the second half and allowed Concordia to score on a touchdown pass with 20 seconds to go during a 28-25 loss.
"It was a tough one," admitted Santa Fe head coach Andy Frerking. "Ultimately, the good news is that it isn't our last game."
The Chiefs host I-70 Conference rival Sweet Springs for their Homecoming on Friday, and are facing a foe which is peaking in confidence following back-to-back wins after opening the season with three straight losses.
For both teams this is a chance to avoid the Class 1, District 4 cellar -- and a potential first-round meeting with third-ranked powerhouse Tipton --when the tournament begins.
"I honestly think we could do it," noted head coach Mel Baker about the 'Hounds' prospects for rising up the ladder and into the fourth seed for a home game. "We could surprise a lot of people at the end."
"For us to have a chance to get a home game, we'll have to win out," Frerking conceded about Santa Fe's chances, having already lost to Crest Ridge and Concordia -- two of the three teams standing between its current seventh seed and fourth. "That will be a tall order."
For the Chiefs (2-3, 1-3 I-70) dealing with Sweet Springs' spread passing attack will be a challenge. A converted tight end, senior quarterback Derrick Nelson threw for 276 yards, completing 18 of 31 attempts.
"We've got to do a good job of getting to the passer," Frerking said. "We haven't done that very well against those types of offenses."
"We're just going to do that the rest of the year, so be ready," Baker warned. "It's either going to be pretty or ugly."
Meanwhile, the 'Hounds (2-3, 1-2) are dealing with their own defensive demons, stopping misdirection offenses -- like Santa Fe's double-wing under the able command of senior Matt Bodenhamer.
"They like to do a lot of crossing and pulling," Baker explained. "It can be pretty tough at times unless we have a back side looking for the reverse."
"We've just got to take care of the football and not turn it over," Frerking said about the area in which Santa Fe has most struggled on offense. "We're physical enough up front that we can establish the run."
Two different approaches, and two teams with momentum going different directions. Now more than halfway through the regular season, two teams that need to get on a roll.
"There's still a lot of football left," Frerking noted.
SLATER -- Slater thought it had a good chance of picking up its first Lewis and Clark Conference win in two years last week at Fayette.
Unfortunately, the Purple dug itself a 21-0 hole and, despite twice closing to within a score, was unable to climb out during a 41-26 loss.
"We made some adjustments and the kids responded really well," asserted Wildcats head coach Chris Ferri. "We say kids get a lot better in the second half."
Slater needs to leave its shovels in the shed Friday against defending league champion Salisbury (5-0, 1-0 L&C), which comes in ranked second in the Class 1 poll. The 'Cats (1-4, 0-1) haven't won in this series since taking a 22-20 road decision in 2007 and were throttled 66-0 to end the '11 campaign.
The Panthers have "size, speed and discipline," according to Ferri, the last of which is critical in handling Slater's double-wing offense.
"They've been running [the 4-4 stack defense] forever," Ferri said of a Salisbury gang which has only allowed 13 points this season. "They stay at home, are very gap-oriented and handle their responsibilities."
Despite an injury to all-conference quarterback Austin Francis, senior Austin Wyatt has capability filled the void. Of course, he's helped by the Panthers' strong run game, led by strong and shifty senior Jake Latamondeer.
"He's very quick, compact and runs low to the ground," Ferri said. "He hits the hole quick and is hard to see."
The biggest factor working against the 'Cats may be Salisbury's tradition.
"They've had a lot of success," Ferri said. "They've learned from past classes how to win."
For Slater, which has never reached the playoffs, that's been a harder to achieve -- but Ferri said his players "are feeling very confident."
"We've got everything we need to be a great team," he claimed.