By JASON ELMQUIST
No more hitting on each other. No more scrimmaging the same team, over and over.
It's finally time for the Garden City High School football squad to play somebody other than themselves as the Buffaloes open against Ulysses at Memorial Stadium on Friday at 7 p.m.
"I know they better be ready to play because our coaches went and scouted Ulysses and they're a lot better," GCHS coach Mike Smith said. "It'll be a heck of a game come Friday night, I think. We're definitely looking forward to playing at home."
Smith said he's seen the intensity level rise from the first two weeks of practice with this being game week.
"I think that helps when we don't just run our offense against our defense," Smith said. "At least this week, we're preparing for the Ulysses defense and the Ulysses offense. And that helps them mentally, too."
Garden City will be looking for a repeat of last year's opener against the Tigers, in which the Buffaloes won 32-10. However, the momentum over the rest of the season swung the way of the Tigers, who finished 5-5 including sweeping district play to reach the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Buffs faltered to a 4-4 finish and lost their last two games of the season.
"We didn't end the season too good, so they had momentum and we didn't," Smith said. "But I think our guys are hungry to get that taste out of their mouth, too. We're just going to try to hopefully be more consistent. We played good, at times, last year."
Making it difficult for the Tigers is having to travel to Garden City this year where the Buffs went 3-1 in home games a year ago. But its the two road losses to end the season, including a 22-16 loss at Dodge City to lose claim of the hatchet, that has the Buffs approaching this year a little more hungry.
"Our offseason and summer workouts, we had a better participation than we did the last two years," Smith said. "The last two years were not as good as they were before. This is my eighth year here, and the first five years were really good, but the last two years we struggled with that a little bit in the offseason.
"Every year is a new year and a good start usually helps. We'd like to have a good start and hopefully we're improving on things in practice and learning a new system."
Besides a new offensive scheme, the offense will also be without C.J. Covington, their leading rusher from last year. Smith and his staff has tapped Zach Lamb as the starting running back heading into the season. However, Angel Flores and Steven Fowler will also see plenty of time in the backfield.
"Zach will start," Smith said. "We decided that this week. He's played the most consistent of the three. They all have their strengths. Like Angel's a good receiver and Steven's kind of in between, but Zach's been doing a good job of running downhill, so they're going to all see action."
Veteran Ulysses coach Jason Kenny is also looking forward to playing in Garden City Friday night. He and his staff were in town a week ago previewing the Buffs in their annual Brown and White scrimmage.
"They've got a new (offensive) system which will be difficult to defend," Kenny said. "We just want to use this game as a building block for our season. Win or lose, we see this as a positive experience for the kids. Beautiful stadium, artificial turf, Jumbotron scoreboard, it all makes for a great experience and we're looking forward to it."
Read more about Garden City football, Ulysses football and other southwest Kansas prep sports at SWKPrepZone.com.
LT Jorge Villanueva 5-11 185
LG Ryan Petersen 5-11 180
C Jace Larsen 5-11 220
RG Mark Petersen 5-10 175
RT Jacob Seyferth 6-0 260
TE Cole Billinger 5-10 190
QB Cody Bernbeck 6-1 170
RB Zach Lamb 5-4 135
WR Raul Silva 5-11 175
WR Jake Curran 6-2 150
WR Breven Graham 6-0 180
B Ian Stone 6-0 155
T Dominic Luna 6-0 225
N Juaquin Luna 6-0 225
T Mitch Bean 6-0 200
B Seth Alexander 6-1 195
MLB Aydan Kinney 5-11 205
WLB Keith Curran 6-3 205
LCB Rodolfo Espino 5-10 160
R Asa Gottsponer 5-5 140
FS Andy Larkin 6-0 180
RCB Braxston Medina 5-10 165
Punter Tanner Parr 6-4 180
Kicker Larry Gomez 5-6 140
Snap Ryan Petersen 5-11 180
KOR Jacob Vasquez 5-9 160
KOR Angel Flores 5-6 150
PR Andy Larkin 6-0 180