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Time to break out the crystal ball and Icy Hot
Mike - At the Mike

And so it begins. Friday night football is back. At the Mike will break out the Crystal Ball the next couple of weeks to predict the seasons for the area teams. This week we will look at the 11-man teams and next week the Eight-Man teams.
There is as much optimism around Great Bend and Hoisington heading into the season as there has been for several years. The Panthers return several key players after reaching the playoffs last season and are ranked No. 8 to start this season. Hoisington starts ranked No. 3 in 3A while Larned is unranked.
Let’s start with Great Bend. Class 5A is different this year with only eight regular season games. That ninth week all 32 teams will start the playoffs. The Panthers plays three Wichita schools, four WAC rivals and Coffeyville. Two games to keep an eye on – week three at Wichita Northwest and week eight against Garden City.
If the Panthers win those two they may not lose a regular season game. The game against Garden will probably decide the WAC champion. I see a 7-1 regular season, a WAC title, and a couple playoff wins in the future for GBHS.
Hoisington opens up with two of its toughest regular season games in Kingman and Wichita Collegiate. Good news for the Cardinals are both are at home. Like Great Bend, two wins there and the Cardinals could have an undefeated regular season. Let’s predict an 8-1 regular season and at least two post seasons wins again with a legit shot at sub-state or farther.
Larned is a team that was pointing to last year as the big year. It didn’t work out but don’t sleep on these Indians. Some transfers have made this team very intriguing and perhaps as explosive on offense as they have been in years.
Problem is four ranked teams on the schedule. If the Indians can get to district healthy, they have a great shot at getting to the playoffs. Week eight at home against Hoisington should decide the district winner. Look for the Indians to go 5-4 in the regular and get that elusive playoff win this year.

Prep thoughts
So I think there is something in the water at Central Plains High School and the town of Claflin. Something that produces athletes. How else can you explain the success of the small town year after year in a variety of sports.
Not only is the football ranked again to start the year so is volleyball and tennis. It’s like a broken record. I don’t even know if they acknowledge league titles at the school anymore. They are running out of space on regional and state championships banners alone.
The volleyball team is ranked No. 1 in a quest to defend its state title. The football team is ranked sixth. The girls’ tennis team is ranked No. 4.
It’s easier to keep track of the Central Plains teams that are not ranked.

Former athlete/coach update
Bryan Sailer spent four seasons as the head coach for the women’s soccer program at Barton, posting a 59-23-2 record with the Cougars. That included 18-4 and 17-4 seasons in back-to-back years in 08 and 09. He was the first coach to post more than 10 wins in a season at Barton.
Since leaving the Cougars in 2011, Sailer has taken the Emporia State program to new heights as well. When he took the job, Emporia has just one winning record in school history and had a combined six wins in the four season before his arrival. Sailer has had the Hornets .500 or better in each of the last three seasons.

And finally
The smell of Icy Hot will soon be in the air.
In the air of the officials locker room where my crew will be dressing starting Friday night. You see four of our members are just a few years either side of 50. Packing the Icy Hot and Aleve are as essential the whistle and flag.
The fifth member, Ty, is in his 30’s but he has been around us long enough it is like he is catching us in age. Don’t get me wrong, he is still the young speedster back judge who kept up with Ulysses’ Ian Rudzik on a breakaway 80-yard touchdown last year.
But after that run, he was reaching for the Icy Hot as well. All of us walk with more spring in our step before the game than after. Many times it’s a slow trudge to the van after the game.
It just wouldn’t be football season without that smell. I got the point a few years ago where I don’t even wait for sore muscles. The Icy Hot is first in the rotation of getting dressed. Both legs. Ankles to thighs. It’s like referee cologne.
Thing is, that smell doesn’t come off quickly. Even after showering and riding home – which means my wife is used the smell as well.
I’ve also learned as I’ve gotten older how smart my Aunt Florence was. She preached of the benefits of Epsom Salt constantly.
She was right.

Contact Mike Marzolf at