By BRETT MARSHALL
There's no playoff spots on the line Thursday night when the Dighton Hornets visit the Ingalls Bulldogs to close out the 2010 football season.
The 7 p.m. kickoff at Ingalls High Stadium for the two 8-man Division II teams will signal the final game of the year.
Ingalls is 4-4 overall and 1-3 in its District 6 schedule while Dighton is 5-3 and 2-2.
For the two coaches — Dighton's Faron Kraft and Ingalls' Roger Thurlow — this game is about making the final game a statement for improvement on their respective pasts.
The homestanding Bulldogs have not had a winning season since 2006 when they made the playoffs. The current group of four seniors — Dalton Brooks, David Minet, Rick Lavrentz and Nick Garcia — the four wins exceed the total victories of their first three years.
"A win Thursday is something that they can hang their hats on and feel good about the progress that has been made," Thurlow said of his seniors, who will be honored by the school. "They've not had a lot of success, but a win would be a good way to cap off the season."
Leading the Bulldogs, who prefer to run the ball, are senior Brooks and junior Chance David, each of whom have rushed for more than 800 yards.
"Dalton's been our most consistent player all year," Thurlow said of his diminutive halfback (5-7, 130-pounds). "He's been healthy and we've moved him around on defense when we've had other people banged up."
The Hornets, meanwhile, are looking to finish off their first year playing 8-man football after merging with Ness City to play 11-man in recent seasons.
Kraft said his team has been a work in progress, adjusting to the speed and spacing required in the 8-man game.
"In most cases we're getting on the right track with the (8-man) game," Kraft said. "Offensively, we've done a good job but defensively it's been a struggle. We've scored a lot but we've given up a lot."
Perhaps the wildest game of the season involved the Hornets when they raced to an 84-74 victory over Moscow. Many wondered if basketball season had started early, including Thurlow.
"We've scored a bunch of points, but nothing like that," Thurlow said of the Hornets. "We're going to have to find a way to slow down their running game, or it will be a tough night for us."
That Hornet rushing attack revolves around junior Guy Fullmer, who has rushed for more than 1,400 yards and C.J. Shafer, who has more than 800 yards on the ground, 200 yards passing and another 200 yards receiving.
"Our offensive line has done a good job and come along through the year," Kraft said. "Two of our seniors — Garrett Parker and Seth Shapp — have really been our keys. They've worked hard and opened up some holes for our backs."
Kraft said he sees many similarities between the two teams.
"They run the heck out of the ball so we'll just see what happens on Thursday night," said Kraft.
For Thurlow, the key will be if his defense can find a way to keep the Hornets from breaking the big plays.
"Fowler and Ashland did a good job against them so we're hopeful that we can do the same thing," Thurlow said. "If we can't, their big plays will kill. We're looking forward to it and hope to finish off the season on a good note."