'Hounds try to shake off tough start

Thursday, September 13, 2012
With seven catches for 103 yards, sophomore Trevor Phillips has been one of the top producers of the 'Hounds' offense. (Hobby King/The Concordian)

SWEET SPRINGS -- The Sweet Springs football team will try to recover from its rough schedule during the first three weeks of the season Friday at Wentworth Military Academy, which has fared no better.

"I think it will make us better," Greyhounds head coach Mel Baker said about playing opponents with a combined 7-2 mark. "It's just a matter of keeping focused."

The Red Dragons (0-3) may be the ideal opponent for Sweet Springs at this stage of the season, since they have struggled while being out-scored 146-47. Of course, the one common foe, St. Paul, beat Wentworth by a 57-17 margin before shutting out the 'Hounds, 49-0.

"They have a lot of kids who haven't played before," Baker said about the Dragons. "It could benefit us."

That doesn't mean Wentworth doesn't have some weapons, especially 225-pound senior fullback Steven Clayton.

"He's going to run up the middle quite a bit," Baker said. "We're going to try to stop that."

However, junior quarterback Caelan Fanelli has shown a willingness to throw on the run, adding a different wrinkle which veteran high school and college coach Jerry Lasko -- in his first year at the Lexington school -- will try to exploit.

Sweet Springs (0-3) is returning to what it has hoped to do since Baker took over last year.

"We're going to spread them thin across the field," he explained. "With our trips and quads" -- three- and four-wideout sets -- "that will take four defenders out of the way."

In his new role at quarterback, senior Derrick Nelson is "running the option well right now," according to Baker. He, along with junior Jeffery Hall and sophomore Trevor Phillips, have been responsible for 231 of the 'Hounds' 243 yards in total offense.

With an I-70 Conference home tilt coming up against Orrick -- the only opponent it beat last year -- this is when Sweet Springs needs to begin building positive momentum.

"We need it, we've got to have it," Baker said of a win over Wentworth. "That would be a big shot in the arm going into Homecoming."

Santa Fe at Lone Jack

ALMA -- Even with back-to-back losses to I-70 Conference contenders Crest Ridge (21-7) and Wellington-Napoleon (40-27), Santa Fe head coach Andy Frerking said "we're not panicking" about the direction of the season.

"The things we need to work on have certainly been exposed," he admitted. "The things we thought were are strengths are strengths, but the things we need to work on have been shown."

Admittedly, the Chiefs (1-2, 0-2 I-70) are a young club, and Friday's league contest at Lone Jack will not pit them against the veteran teams they saw the last two weeks.

Even more than Santa Fe, the Mules (1-2, 0-2) have struggled offensively -- managing only two touchdowns thus far, one during a rain-soaked 9-6 decision over mediocre King City. They do have a dual-threat quarterback in sophomore Nick Kirk, who has run for a team-high 95 yards and passed for 134 yards.

"They're similar to us with a little more passing involved," Frerking noted. "They run a lot of fullback and quarterback option plays."

Frerking concedes that containing capable quarterbacks is something the Chiefs "haven't done a very good job" of accomplishing. For its part, Santa Fe has gotten good production from senior Matt Bodenhamer.

"We're not going to change what we do," Frerking said. "We have to see hw they're going to play our option."

The Chiefs are currently seeded seventh in the Class 1, District 4 standings, but only third-ranked Tipton remains unbeaten. A win would help Santa Fe considerably, but Frerking believes that "if we improve, winning takes care of itself."

"The main thing is that we go out and play better," he stated. "We want to continue to get better."

Thomas Academy at Slater

SLATER -- Slater has played an increasingly difficult schedule so far this season, culminating with last week's 69-6 loss at powerful Milan.

"Overall, we're getting better," asserted Wildcats head coach Chris Ferri, although admitting that his defense made poor plays on 17 of 51 snaps in the previous game.

"We're still getting used to making plays in the backfield," he explained. "We just broke down at the wrong times."

The Purple is hoping to cut down on mistakes during Friday's home game against the Derrick Thomas Academy of Kansas City, named in honor of the Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker. This is only the second year of the Chiefs' program, which opened the season with a 38-0 victory over another metro charter school.

"They're fairly young," Ferri observed about a squad with no seniors. "For once, we're going to be the team of experience."

The Thomas Academy (1-2) does have speed, starting with sophomore quarterback Reece Crawford and extending into a corps of fleet receivers. However, without receiving video in exchange for what he sent the Chiefs' coaches, Ferri is driving a bit blind.

"They're going to throw the ball around a lot," is the consensus of other coaches to whom Ferri has spoken.

The 'Cats (0-10), who began the season optimistically, are wanting to put a sudden halt to a 10-game losing streak.

"We definitely need a win," Ferri declared, "for just the kids' confidence and to play the way we know we can play."

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