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High-flying Grizzlies will test Panthers
Offensive fireworks Part IV
spt_HG_gage fritz
Great Bend Panther's running back Gage Fritz (29) runs the ball against Hays Indians during the second half of the game on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, at Hays Ks. - photo by Hugo Gonzalez

PANTHERS (2-0) vs. GRIZZLIES (2-0)

2018—Grizzlies 56, Panthers 34; 13 TDs; 1,097 yds.

2017—Grizzlies 63, Panthers 27; 13 TDs; 1,065 yds.

2016—Panthers 58, Grizzlies 47; 14 TDs; 1,120 yds.

Great Bend linebacker Joey Soupiset knows all the Wichita Northwest video-game numbers. 

The No. 2 ranked 5A Grizzlies have averaged 55 points and 588 yards per game the past three years against the Panthers. The teams have combined to average 95 points and 1,094 yards per game in three offensive shootouts.

The key to slowing down the Grizzlies depends on one play — first down.

“We’re focused on slowing them down on first down, because that’s where they build their momentum,” Soupiset said. “We can’t let them have big first down plays. If they gain eight yards on first down, their playback is open.”

Northwest (2-0) graduated halfbacks Breece Hall and Roy Johnson, who combined for 3,460 yards and 45 rushing touchdowns in 2018. Quarterback Reagan Jones returns after throwing for 2,414 yards and rushing for 1,303 yards while accounting for 51 touchdowns. Jones has passed for 271 yards and rushed for 185 yards in two games.

The Grizzlies ran an eye-popping 93 offensive plays last year by snapping the ball quickly.

“Last year, Northwest was the toughest offensive team we played,” Soupiset said. “You can’t simulate their speed or how fast they play. Northwest puts the football down and goes. You’ve got to bring your best every play. Any chance for a fumble or interception matters a lot.”

The Grizzlies average 293 yards rushing with 67 percent of their snaps.  Jones has developed into the Grizzlies’ second running option after tailback Jamar Martin (221 yards).

“They are balanced with their run-pass game,” Beck said. “They’re using their quarterback in the run game and have designated runs for him. It takes time to adjust to their speed because you can’t simulate that in practice.” 

Much like Great Bend multi-faceted quarterback Dalton Miller, Jones is a true double-threat with WR Zion Jones (141 yards) his big-play receiving target. 

“You have to prepare for both pass and run because Jones is a good athlete who can do it all,” Beck said. “Last year, we tried to take away their running back.” 

Soupiset said the defense will play aggressive and hit ball-carriers. They’ll enjoy themselves by flying around and playing with 100 percent effort.

It’s what Friday Night Lights are all about.

“We love playing a team like Northwest,” Soupiset said. “It’s the best thing ever. You learn a lot about your team. If you can hang with a team like this, it gives you confidence.” 

Great Bend (2-0) is averaging 303 yards per game. But they’ve averaged 506 yards the past three years against the Grizzlies. 

“If they give us a look, we’ve got to take advantage and make a play,” Beck said. “It’s tough to drive the football against a good defense that is well coached.”