The pageantry that comes with the annual Homecoming game for Great Bend High School won’t be a distraction for the Panthers.
How could it?
Not with a spotlight team like Wichita Heights, the consensus top-ranked football team in Class 6A, coming to town on Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7 at Memorial Stadium.
As good as St. Thomas Aquinas is as a top-rated team in 5A, the Falcons are one class bigger and as good as anyone in the state. They were the state runner-up in 2009, and are the clear-cut favorite to be crowned as state champions this season.
“I’d say as an overall team, they might be a little better,” said Great Bend head coach Bo Black, comparing the Falcons to Aquinas, which beat the Panthers 52-28 in the season opener. “Going into this week, they’re the No. 1-ranked team in Class 6A and a top-3 in the Super 10 rankings.
“The big thing is, our kids are up for the challenge. It’s going to be a tough road to hoe. We’re probably a little outmanned, but that’s what makes football fun.”
Heights is 3-0, and Great Bend is 1-1, coming off a 21-13 road victory over Garden City to open Western Athletic Conference play.
“Aquinas has a high-powered offense, and Heights has more athleticism on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball,” Black said. “The one thing that Heights has that is really amazing is that everybody can run.
“From defensive linemen to offensive linemen, they’re a team with great speed.”
It is safe to say it’s hard to simulate the Heights’ team speed and athleticism in practice. That’s why it’s imperative for the Panthers to find a way to ratchet up their game another notch, in turbo mode, if possible.
“We’re just going to have to play really, really sound football,” Black said. “In doing that, Heights is going to make some great plays, just because of speed and raw talents.
“We really have to be ready to play physically at the point of attack, play responsible defensive football and make plays when they get there. Their offense is very similar to Hutchinson. (Heights) spreads you out in a different way that makes you play responsible football.”
Hutchinson is the 5A state champion six years running.