Marvin Gaye popularized the song, the lyrics, “I heard it through the gravevine”. A lot of information gets dispensed via the grapevine, including what we know about football teams, football seasons. Today let’s take a look at three playoff teams from 2017, Great Bend, Hoisington and Larned and see what the “Grapevine” tells us about their 2018, prospects.
After a superlative 10-2 record in 2016, the Great Bend Black Panthers took a step back in 2017, and finished 5-4. Two games stick out as culprits that really took the Panthers down last year; the 21-20 loss at Hays to a team that finished 3-6 and the stunning, late-in-the-game loss at home to the Liberal Redskins, 23-21. Both of those losses fall into the coulda/shoulda been wins column.
The Panther defense had difficulty getting stops when they really needed them last year but that might be turned around this year as third-year coach Erin Beck welcomes back 10 starters on the defensive side of the ball. Beck’s first two years produced a 15-6 record so bigger things are expected of this 2018 ball club.
Offensively the Panthers return 7 starters, keyed by senior quarterback Koy Brack who led the team in passing, 1049 yards, and rushing, 890 yards. Great Bend, under Beck, has usually been able to score enough points to win and this team will be no exception.
Continued offensive excellence plus a much improved defense just might be all the Panthers need to snare a WAC title. Seven or more wins is not out of the question.
The Cardinals, under coach Zach Baird have been a “Monster in the Midway” over the past four years, posting a 39-9 record, including 2017’s 7-4 mark. They have made the playoffs and made substantial runs each of those years. Can the Cards do it again in 2018?
A new year brings a new classification for Hoisington as they will be part of the 2A group this year. Coach Baird’s run-tough flexbone offense will once again deliver the Cardinals into the playoff picture as they return 7 offensive starters. Even so, points may be a little more difficult to come by due to the absence of all-state running back Sean Urban who graduated. Still, 7 starters provides a nice nucleus for coach Baird to build on. Hoisington has been, for years, a tough, smash-mouth football team and opponents should expect nothing less this year.
There will be some retooling on the defensive side of the ball as only 5 starters return but the very nature of the “grind it out” style of Baird’s offense will allow this defensive unit to jell. If you are looking for Hoisington to not be a factor in the playoffs, this is not that year!
A new head coach and a new playoff classification leaves a lot of question marks for this Larned Indian team. Gone is head coach A.B. Stokes after six turnaround years for the Larned football program. Also gone is a strong, 16-member senior class. New coach, Tad Remy is enthused about what his ball club has accomplished in the weight room in off-season conditioning, feeling that his 10 returning lettermen are bigger, stronger and faster.
With only 3 returning offensive starters, the Indians will be making a lot of adjustments and depending on some players to play new positions. 4 starters return on the defensive side of the ball and the Tribe should be tough to score on.
Prep Power Index stated that Larned had the toughest schedule in all of 3A football in 2017, and there is nothing to suggest that will not again be the case in 2018. 7 of the 9 opponents on the schedule were in the 3A or 4A-II playoffs last year. The two opponents on the schedule that did not make the playoffs last year, Pratt and Hugoton, usually do make the playoffs.
The Indians will count on their defense to keep games close as their offense matures and grows early in this season. Both the offensive and defensive lines have good size and with Logan DeMond, the Indians should have an outstanding kicking game.
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.