It’s not the same as Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities but it will do until something better comes along. Two Barton County cities. Two football teams. Twenty-three games. Twenty-two victories. Great Bend 10-1. Hoisington 12-0. State semifinalists both. Two cities separated by just maybe ten miles but certainly not separated by their efforts on the football field.
Great Bend - The Black Panthers moved their record to 10-1 with the terrific finish against Valley Center and a 28-24 win. It didn’t look probable but then, neither did a 10-1 record last August.
On paper, Goddard might be the favorite but, fortunately, they don’t play the game on paper, but on the field, the home field and, again fortunately, Great Bend has that advantage. Goddard comes calling with their gaudy 10-1 record with their only loss to perhaps the best team in the state in Derby, the favorite to win the 6A crown. Two common opponents, Valley Center and Andover provided close wins for Great Bend but blowout victories for Goddard. Only Wichita Northwest supplied similar opposition as the Black Panthers won 58-47 and Goddard won 27-26 in 2 overtimes in the season opener.
Great Bend has been able to win the close games. Northwest, Dodge City, Andover and Valley Center. A close loss to Garden City in overtime is the only blemish.
I point all of this out to say that, if it is a close game, I like the Panthers chances. This is a resilient ball club. They’ve not let three coaching changes in four years dampen their enthusiasm. Last years’ 7-3 record was a surprise to many but no more so the 10-1 of this year. That is, with the exception of this bunch of athletes. They are not surprised at their success. They planned for it. They worked for it.
Goddard is favored by anywhere from 3 to 8 points. I’ll take the Panthers by the same amount.
Hoisington - The Cardinals pushed the bar a little higher last week as they pounded Garden Plain for their 12th victory and a new school record. They are now 23-1 over the past two years and 32-3 in coach Zach Baird’s three-year tenure. The only thing missing in their resume’ is a state championship and that is well within reach.
The Cardinals have only been pushed in one game, that a 31-22 comeback victory over Wichita Collegiate. It seems only fitting that their semifinal game is against a fellow Central Kansas League foe, Hesston. The CKL is arguably the toughest 3A, 4A conference in the state. Pratt, a league member that fell to Hoisington earlier in the season 32-14, has advanced to the 4A Div.II semifinals.
The Cardinals all-time leading rusher did not play against Garden Plain but they didn’t miss a beat. Coach Baird has instilled a tough-guy mentality that overcomes injuries and negative situations. They travel to Hesston for this game and the Swathers are dangerous but so are the Cards!
Look for Hoisington to set another school record with their 13th victory as they advance to the State Championship game.
The Tale of these Two Cities is quite a bit different than the two in Dickens’ novel. These two are winners!
Buddy Tabler is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune and his views don’t necessarily reflect those of the paper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org