Great Bend’s gentle giant will play eye-to-eye with the state’s No. 1 football recruit Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
When Panther right tackle Aaron Clark blocks Wichita Northwest’s Marcus Hicks, a pair of Division I recruits will meet face-to-face. The 6-foot-8, 305-pound Clark is being recruited by Kansas State and Kansas. The state schools are joined by Ohio State, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Oklahoma State for 4-star recruit Hicks, who has also visited Notre Dame and Alabama.
It’s rare when two of the state’s top recruits meet head-to-head.
“I love the competition aspect because they are so talented,” Clark said. “If I can compete, that means I’m a talented player too. I hope to gain the advantage against them. I believe I can be an elite player. But our objective is to win. Team success is way more important than my own personal success.”
Clark said the offensive line believes if they control the line of scrimmage, odds are in the Panthers’ favor.
“If our offensive line has a good game, usually we have a good offensive game,” Clark said. “If we move the line of scrimmage, we’ll gain at least three yards. If I play football as well as I can play, I’ll be fine.”
The Panthers’ primary goal is to run efefctively. Last year, the Panthers had an effective mix of running and passing.
“I like getting out and playing physical on the run game,” Clark said. “I get a better chance to pancake a guy an bury him in the ground. I hold nothing back when the play is live.”
Great Bend coach Erin Beck believes the Panthers have rallied after a heartbreaking 21-20 overtime loss to Hays High.
“We learned a lot about ourselves as far as being locked in and being prepared,” Beck said. “We’ve been very focused. We want to take care of business. We were disappointed the way things turned out. We’ll learn from it.”
Most of Beck’s issues were minor — two lost fumbles, missed assignments and a costly offside penalty.
“A lot of little issues we need to shore up,” Beck said. “We gave ourselves a chance to win the game. I was very proud of the way they handed things.”
The Grizzlies feature RB Breece Hall (224 yards), RB Roy Johnson (184 yards), QB Austin Anderson (156 yards) and LB Josh Carter.
“I want to see how our players step up to the competition,” Beck said.
Great Bend’s student crowd was ranked second in the CatchitKansas.com preseason rankings. The Panthers outgunned the Grizzlies 58-47 last year in an offensive shootout.
“It’ll be fun to get back home,” Beck said.