Great Bend High School head football coach Bo Black used the term “ultra-explosive,” when describing Dodge City’s big-play offense.
The Panthers, 1-2 overall and 1-0 in the Western Athletic Conference, invade Dodge City’s Memorial Stadium tonight. Kickoff is set for 7.
“The scary thing is, you can’t just concentrate on those inside guys,” Black said of the Red Demons (4-0, 1-0), who lead WAC teams through four games in total offense, averaging 428.5 yards per game. “You’ve got to stop the inside run, and they have a dominant offensive line, too.
“We will try to put them in some passing situations. They’re a well-balanced offense, and they really do a lot of good things.”
The Demons, who have amassed 927 passing yards and 787 rushing yards thus far, have several go-to guys on offense.
“When you put the ball in a playmakers hands, explosive things can happen,” first-year Dodge City head coach Dave Foster said. “It’s the nature of the beast.”
• DCHS sophomore Parker Davis, who lines up in a one-back set at running back, has scored a WAC-most eight touchdowns and ranks second in the conference with 333 rushing yards.
• Quarterback Jared Helfrich has the highest completion ratio in the WAC (56-for-86 for 65.1 percent). He has thrown eight touchdown passes and only two interceptions while amassing 924 yards.
• Inside receivers Rico Hogan (15 catches for 330 yards) and Trey Hallman (14 catches for 177 yards) rank third and fifth, respectively, in WAC receiving yardage.
“They have come up with a lot of big plays, and they have a lot of playmakers,” Black said. “The inside receivers, quarterback and back make a lot of plays for them.
“We’ve got to account for them.”
Dodge City’s first four games have been blowouts, including a 40-7 win over Wichita East, a 30-10 victory over Wichita Northwest, a 63-13 drubbing of Wichita Northwest and a 41-20 triumph at Liberal to open WAC play last Friday.
“We would like to be explosive all of the time,” said Dave Foster, Dodge City’s first-year head coach. “We know, though, as we face better teams, which we ran into a week ago in Liberal, and the next two weeks for sure.
“When you face better-coached teams, you’re not as explosive as you would be against lesser-coached teams. The fact that (Great Bend) has played St. Thomas Aquinas and Wichita Heights, we haven’t played those caliber of teams.”
Inasmuch as Great Bend needs to be on the alert for the aforementioned Demons offensive players, Foster is just as leery of the Panthers’ playmakers.
“We’re well-aware of their talents and you’re sitting there looking at a situation where Dodge hasn’t beaten Great Bend in 10 years,” Foster said. “There’s no secret where their talent-level is at. We respect their program, and Coach Black has been in the same place for a number of years.
“Great Bend has a great opportunity to win on any given night. That’s the type of consistency that I was used to when I was at (Elk City, Okla.), and that’s what you get when you’re well-coached.”
Despite the fact that Great Bend has played one fewer game than its counterparts, Panthers tailback Jeremy Sigler ranks No. 5 in the WAC rushing with 226 yards. Quarterback Greg Hildebrand has completed 39 of 71 passes for 456 yards, with four touchdown passes and four interceptions.
Wide receiver Alex Reed ranks No. 6 in the conference with 176 yards in his nine catches, including a trio of scoring receptions.
“He stepped up and made some big plays and became a big-time player,” said Black of Reed, who had four catches for 105 yards last Friday, hauling in touchdown passes of 54 and 27 yards during a 45-14 loss to Class 6A top-ranked Wichita Heights.
“With his growing confidence, he’s becoming a weapon for us. It’s been fun watching him grow up this year and put some confidence behind his athletic ability. I don’t think anyone can run with the kid, flat-out. He’s a sub-4.4 guy, about a 4.37 or 4.38 (in the 40-yard dash).”
If the Panthers can get Reed open on downfield routes, it could open things up for the run/pass-oriented Hildebrand and Sigler in the backfield.
“If you can put a weapon out on the outside, it can open some things up because they will have to account where he’s at,” Black said.