Chiefs, 'Cats square up again

Wednesday, August 22, 2018
The 'Cats will look to get the ball to junior wideout Aden Campbell, who had 32 catches a year ago. (Chris Allen/Democrat-News)

For the seventh year in a row, Slater and Santa Fe open the high school football season against each other, Friday at Alma.

Thus far in the series, the outcome has been one-sided, with the Chiefs ending up on top. One of the contests has been interesting, Santa Fe's record-shattering 78-63 victory in 2013, but mostly not. The Wildcats have lost the four meetings since then by 54, 44, 44 and 32 points.

The last clash was been a pair of first-year coaches, Slater having its closest game yet under Michael Horton with a 32-0 loss to Alex McClafferty's Chiefs. Why believe this year will be different?

For one thing, Santa Fe doesn't return 10 starters on both sides of the ball, with quarterback Devin Breland -- who ran for 144 yards and four touchdowns -- among the missing.

That's not to suggest that junior Dakota Boehmer can't step in and do a good job, but with a different skills set -- and two new halfbacks behind him -- the Chiefs' offensive dynamic may not be the same.

Then there's Slater, a team expected to improve with sophomore Keegan Zdybel's return at quarterback and a beefier line in front of him. If the 'Cats can handle Santa Fe's misdirection, which they rarely have in the past, this could be a tight struggle. Purple fans can only hope.

Sweet Springs at Windsor

In this annual season opener between Greyhounds, Windsor -- a former I-70 Conference member -- hosts Sweet Springs on Friday.

Windsor has won the last six meetings between the teams and has the program going under alum Jake Vencill, who coached the school to its first district tournament semifinal since the current system started in 2012.

While Windsor has taken some big hits to graduation, including four all-Kaysinger Conference performers who played key roles in last year's 36-0 victory, this is not a slam-dunk. Sweet Springs brings back only three senior lettermen, but its young players have experience -- with seven offensive and eight defensive starters in the fold.

The 'Hounds should suffer not at all with junior Jacob Hall at quarterback following a fine career from Zack Giffen, and the team speed is the greatest it's been since Kris Conley took over the program five years ago. That may make it interesting.

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