Western Athletic Conference
Team All Big 12
Hays 4-0 2-0
Dodge City 4-0 1-0
Great Bend 1-2 1-0
Liberal 2-2 0-2
Garden City 1-3 0-2
Great Bend at Dodge City
Wichita South at Hays
Liberal at Garden City
Friday’s Sept. 24 results
Wichita Heights 45, Great Bend 14
Dodge City 41, Liberal 20
Hays 17, Garden City 3
A crucial Western Athletic Conference football game takes place Friday night, when Great Bend High School heads out to Dodge City to take on the unbeaten Red Demons.
At 1-0 in WAC play, Great Bend (1-2) and Dodge City (4-0) both sit behind conference leader Hays, which is 2-0 in the WAC and 4-0 overall.
“From that standpoint, it looks like it could become a three-team race and it could be very easily be down to two after Friday night,” Great Bend head coach Bo Black said of the WAC ramifications. “You never know what is going to happen in that league.
“Right now, we’re not overly concerned about the WAC race. We’re concerned about Dodge City and obviously, the big task of playing a very good football team.”
The Class 6A Red Demons dominated three Wichita City League teams in succession: a 40-7 triumph over Wichita East, a 30-10 romp past Wichita Northwest and a 63-13 manhandling of Wichita North.
In Game 4 last Friday, in its WAC opener, Dodge City built a 21-0 lead before securing a 41-20 road victory after Liberal had closed the gap to 21-20.
The Panthers are coming off a 45-14 loss to Wichita Heights, top-ranked in Class 6A and the cream of the crop in Wichita, last Friday on their Homecoming. It was their second game against a highly ranked opponent.
“I’ve never been as proud of a group that was beaten as bad as we were Friday night,” Black said. “Even after watching the film, the scoreboard was a little bit misleading.
“(Heights) dominated the game defensively.”
Dodge City has a new coach this season in Dave Foster, who was hired from Elk City, Okla. The Demons, under Justin Burke, who left for Chaparral, posted an 8-3 record in 2009, advancing to the state playoffs for the first time in 15 years.
After beating Topeka High in the first round of the 6A state playoffs, Dodge City lost to Derby in the second round.
“They had a very good football team last year,” said Black, whose team rallied to beat the Demons, 28-27, last season at Memorial Stadium, handing them their first loss after opening the 2009 campaign with four straight wins. “We probably got outplayed for three quarters and figured out a way to get it done in the fourth quarter.”
Dodge City played that game without standout running back Jace Banner, who was suspended for a violation of team rules.
The Demons have lost a number of standouts from last season due to graduation.
Banner, who led the WAC with 1,715 rushing yards in 248 carries, is playing running back for current No. 2-ranked Butler Community College in El Dorado. Linebacker Laton Dowling is a freshman scholarship player at Kansas State, wide receiver Landon Head is now a freshman at Hutchinson and quarterback Ty Thomas is a pitcher in the baseball program at Seward.
Yet, the cupboard is hardly bare.
Bookend defensive ends Bruce Campbell and Alec Schmitt return from last year’s team, and Trey Hallman and Rico Hogan have established themselves as bona-fide playmakers as inside receivers.
Campbell is the fullback and blocking back for tailback Parker Davis, and Jared Helfrich is the quarterback. The top offensive lineman for the Demons is Jesse Trent.
“They have big, physical strong linemen, fast backs and a smart little quarterback that makes it all run,” Black said of the Demons. “They have really good inside receivers with good speed and explosiveness.
“Defensively, it’s the same thing.”