Prep Grid Preview/Chiefs challenge No. 6 Concordia

Thursday, September 27, 2007
The 'Cats can avoid a third straight shutout with improved offensive line play. (Eric Crump/Democrat-News)

ALMA -- There may not be any special name to the annual clash between I-70 Conference neighbors Santa Fe and Concordia, but its still one of the most notable rivalries in high school football in this region.

Up until the Orioles ended a 24-year drought with a 22-6 win at Alma last year, it was a rather lopsided series. The Chiefs are hoping that won't be the start of a trend when they head to sixth-ranked Concordia on Friday.

"I think our kids are excited, and that it's a rivalry only adds to that excitement," remarked Santa Fe head coach Andy Frerking, a 1988 grad who didn't lose to the Orioles during his career. "There's a little extra hop in their step."

Frerking hopes that carries over onto the field, because the Chiefs (2-2, 1-1 I-70) will need all the energy they can muster against such a talented foe.

"They're a big, physical team," Frerking noted. "They come ready to play."

Just ask Lone Jack, which entered their Week 2 clash at Concordia ranked No. 7 in Class 1 and left with their tail between their legs after a 32-6 whipping. Last week, Wellington-Napoleon -- which creamed the O's a year ago, 78-13 - was held in check during a 26-12 loss.

"They play hard defensively," Frerking said. "They go to the ball hard."

When it has the ball, Concordia (4-0, 2-0) gets a lot of production from speedy senior quarterback Joey White. If he can't run, he needs only throw the ball high in the air for 6-foot-7 senior wideout Jacob Evans to grab.

"They have a lot of good football players, a lot of weapons," Frerking said. "The key for us is not turning it over, not giving them opportunities to make plays by giving them the ball."

The Chiefs have committed eight turnovers this season, the same as their opponents, but three giveaways during a 28-7 loss to Sweet Springs two weeks ago helped secure their only league loss to-date. Coming off a 32-6 victory over Crest Ridge, Santa Fe is still hoping to be a factor in the I-70.

"A win could get us back in the conference race," Frerking declared. "We need to show we can put back-to-back efforts together."

SWEET SPRINGS -- Despite last week's 42-12 I-70 Conference loss to top-ranked Orrick, 3-1 Sweet Springs is feeling pretty good about where it stands.

Of course, the Greyhounds have been there before.

"The last two years we started off 3-0 and finished 4-6," Sweet Springs head coach Tim Smith recalled. "That's been our preaching point this week."

If any other reminder is needed, then the 'Hounds only have to look at last year's 16-0 loss to Braymer, which will host them for Homecoming during Friday's non-conference contest.

Although Sweet Springs was then without quarterback Chris Dickinson, and the Bobcats (1-3) have lost a lot of seniors from a team which reached the Class 1 quarterfinals, Smith allowed that "their size and how quick they get off the ball worries me."

Sophomore nose guard Clayton Brown, "little" brother to former all-state Missouri recruit Colin Brown, is one of the big guys up front which has the attention of the smaller 'Hounds. Sweet Springs is gaining a reputation as a physical team, but Smith admitted "it's going to be hard to run between the tackles on" Braymer.

That may not be the case for the 'Cats.

"They're going to come right at you," Smith said. "It's 'here we are, try to stop us.'"

With a conference tilt a week away against young Crest Ridge, the 'Hounds are in position to get a roll going -- if they can get by Braymer.

"The kids know that as long as we stay healthy, which we've done so far, we have a chance to have a good year," Smith said, adding a cautionary note. "We're making them take it one game at a time."

SLATER -- The last time Slater headed east for a Saturday game, it returned home Sept. 1 with a season-opening 73-6 loss to Class 2 powerhouse Hogan Prep.

The foe this weekend won't be as formidable, but Wentworth Military Academy -- which hosts the 1:30 p.m. game at Lexington -- may be just as desperate for a win at the Wildcats.

"We're both hungry," asserted Slater head coach Tom Doherty. "It's going to come down to who wants it more."

Both teams have been somewhat overmatched by their schedule, the Purple out-scored 194-12 after being shut out the last two games and the Red Dragons (0-4) -- also blanked twice -- losing by an aggregate 143-32.

Doherty, though, isn't being suckered in. Wentworth -- coached by effervescent former Sweet Springs principal Bob Levy -- "has played well against teams," according to Doherty.

"Defensively, they get after it," Doherty said. "They're very quick and get all over the field. They don't miss many tackles."

Slater (0-4) has given good effort throughout its period of adversity, which is taking an even larger toll this week with at least three starters out. Doherty believes his players "deserve a win because they have played so hard." However, "we've got to be consistent."

"We've got to play every play," Doherty declared. "One-hundred percent of the players have to play 100 percent on 100 percent of the plays."

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