The Great Bend High School Panthers spent Labor Day morning hard at work.
“We labored,” GBHS head football coach Bo Black said of his team’s three-hour practice on Monday. “Our kids came in at 9 a.m. and went over scouting reports and practiced. We got our kids out of there around noon.”
The Panthers (1-0) opened the season last Friday with a 14-6 road victory over Hoisington, so they used Labor Day to work on all facets of their game. They travel to Ulysses to play the Tigers tonight in non-conference play. Kickoff is set for 7.
“We have some questions that need to be answered,” Black said, referencing the play of the Panthers’ offensive line. “This is a group that wants to get better, a group that has to get better. We’ve made it very clear.
“As good as our offensive line is, it’s as good as our offense is going to be. If we’re going to be very average up front, then we’re going to be very average on offense. When we get to a point where we’re good up front, we’re going to be good on offense, too, and really, a whole lot is not going to factor into that.”
Black says his team needs to make improvement, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Besides workhorse senior running back Josh Lopez, who had 103 rushing yards in 33 carries and also scored both of their touchdowns on 3- and 2-yard runs, the Panthers finished with only 230 yards in total offense in the season opener.
“All the way around, from top to bottom, it was a disappointing offensive performance last Friday,” Black said. “We worked hard to address some of those issues, but there’s still a lot of question marks.
“Question marks up front. Question marks, ‘Are we going to be able to throw the ball?’ Question marks, ‘Are we going to be able to dominate the line of scrimmage?’ ”
One area that won’t have to be addressed in the near future is unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The Panthers had a plethora of personal-foul flags thrown against them, each resulting in a 15-yard penalty.
“You just never know … there’s no excuse for having that many of them, obviously,” Black said of the six unsportsmanlike penalties called against Panthers. “It won’t happen again.
“We addressed it, it was Game 1. I take responsibility full responsibility for the actions of my players, and it was my fault and it won’t happen again. It’s a done deal in my mind.”
The Panthers were penalized 11 times for 105 yards in the opener.
In Ulysses, Great Bend will be encountering a team that rallied from an early first-half deficit for a 43-27 victory over host Liberal last Friday night.
“Our defense is going to have to play extremely well,” Black said of Ulysses. “It’s a typical Ulysses team. They run the ball extremely well and they’re well-coached.
“The word ‘tough’ is synonymous when you talk about Ulysses. Anybody that follows Ulysses football, the first thing you think of when you hear Ulysses is ‘tough.’ They’re kids are tough, they play extremely hard and they’re always deep in the playoffs at the 4A level.”
The Tigers recorded an 11-2 record last season, losing to eventual state champion Rose Hill, 56-14, in the third round of the playoffs. Prior to the loss, Ulysses beat Pratt/Walden Center Charter, 60-14, in the Tigers’ first playoff game and Hesston, 26-19, in its second.
Ulysses’ only regular-season loss in 2011 came at the hands of Scott City, 27-13 at home. The Tigers also beat Hoisington on the road last season, 34-13.
Tonight marks the second straight road game for the Panthers. They will play their home opener next Friday night against Garden City, which will also be their Western Athletic Conference lid-lifter.
“It doesn’t matter where we’re playing at,” Black said. “I’m not a big believer in the ‘homefield advantage.’
“It’s a long trip out there (to Ulysses) and when you grow up in Great Bend, you’re used to traveling to play a football game. It’s just another game we’re playing on the road.”