Casey Stengel once said, “Never make predictions, especially about the future!” Starting Friday evening, the future is here. Undaunted, we rush in!
Can Great Bend continue the surprising season of 2015, and repeat as a playoff team this year? We begin to fit those pieces of the puzzle together Friday evening as the Black Panthers host the Golden Tornados of Coffeyville. The Tornados have been little more than a dusty whirlwind since a state runner-up finish in 2013. They fell to little more than a breeze last year as they stumbled to an 0-9 season, bringing in new coach, Darrin Wegner , to put some wind back in the Golden Tornados. They are a 4A Div. I team with six returning starters on each side of the ball. They are young and will be inspired by a new coaching staff but after traveling more than halfway across the state will not find the Black Panthers hospitable.
Great Bend also returns six starters on both side of the ball for new head coach Erin Beck. The skill positions have returning starters but there are questions about the offensive and defensive lines. Can the Black Panthers establish a strong running attack to balance their aerial assault? This game will be a good test. Every game counts in the playoff picture this year in 5A and 6A as District games are gone so think of this as a key to making the playoffs. Great Bend 33, Coffeyville 13.
HOISINGTON opens at home against Kingman. The Cardinals were 11-1 last year and have a lot of the key ingredients from that team returning. Kingman is not expected to be as strong as last year but just the presence of fullback Payton Pickering makes them a tough out. Hoisington DOES NOT want to be looking past Kingman to next week’s highlight game with Wichita Collegiate. Cardinals too deep, too much. Hoisington 27, Kingman 7.
LARNED has been disappointed by a pair of 4-5 finishes in the past two years and coach A.B. Stokes has made it a mission to eliminate the mistakes that have cost the Indians dearly in multiple close-game losses. The Indians finished the 2015 season by defeating Pratt, in overtime, 15-14, at Pratt. Those Greenbacks are the first-game opponent this year. There is no greater rivalry game for both of these teams. Pratt vs. Larned is the marquee game of the season for both teams. That it is the season opener just adds to the mystique.
Pratt returns eight starters on both offense and defense and will be led by All-CKL first team receiver and defensive back, Hunter Kaufman. The Indians return four offensive starters and six defensive starters. An off-season of intense work in the weight room has made the Indians bigger and stronger.
Pratt vs. Larned. Another epic struggle. The last two games between these teams have been end-of-the-game nail biters. Probably not going to change much this year. Larned 20, Pratt 17.
Keep an eye out west on Pawnee Heights in Rozel. They start football again in the 6-Man ranks with a game against Western Plains. High-scoring six-man football is back! ... Friday evening Kansas State travels to California to take on No. 8 Stanford. Cats will look good but probably come up short, 27-17. ... The Kansas Jayhawks should get one of their wins this week as they host Rhode Island. That’s the good news. The bad news is that win comes as coach Dave Beaty enters his second season and it is also his first victory as a head coach. Kansas 38, Rhode Island 13. ... How good is Central Plains? No better place to find out than at Victoria. We like the Oilers 44-36. ... Elsewhere, Ness City over a young Macksville team, Ellinwood too much for Kinsley and Otis-Bison races by St.John. ... Making predictions doesn’t make you smart, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car!
Charles Tabler is a contributing writer from Larned. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.