By BRETT MARSHALL
Two of the most successful football programs in southwest Kansas belong to the Tigers of Ulysses and the Beavers of Scott City.
Year-in, year-out, these two usually Class 4A and 3A schools, are among the elite teams of this area.
And while the records of 2009 may not indicate it, both teams are still good and both coaches — Glenn O'Neil of Scott City and Jason Kenny of Ulysses — know that when the two Mid-State Activities Association rivals hit the football field in Ulysses on Friday night, it will be another physical, hard-fought contest.
"Ulysses is a very dangerous team," O'Neil said of the Tigers, who have struggled out of the gate at 0-2 again for the second straight season. "We feel like we are getting ready to enter a hornet's nest when we travel down there."
And for good reason. The Tigers' two losses have been to 6A Garden City (30-6) and 5A Hays High (13-9) and both on the road.
"We're looking forward to our first game at home," Kenny said at mid-week. "All these games, the Garden City, Hays and now Scott City, are going to make us better later in the year for the playoffs."
That's exactly what happened for Kenny and the Tigers a year ago. After dropping three of their first four, they won four of their final five to ease into the playoffs only to lose in the opening round to Clearwater. Scott City, meanwhile, downed the Tigers last year 24-6 en route to a 10-2 record and an appearance in the 3A quarterfinals for the third straight year.
"From Week 1 to Week 2 our defense got more physical and we were flying to the football better," Kenny said. "We're still struggling offensively, we're not blocking and we're not taking care of the ball (10 turnovers in the two losses)."
For O'Neil and the Beavers, their two wins have come against Lakin (39-0) and MSAA foe Pratt (23-7). They are ranked No. 1 in the latest Telegram football poll.
"We were in survival mode for most of the game against Pratt," O'Neil said. "We fumbled the ball away on fourth-and-one on our first drive, we snapped the ball over the punter's head for a Pratt TD and we dropped two touchdown passes in the end zone. Then, in the third quarter, we fumbled the ball into the end zone. We finally got up 13-7, then 16-7 and 23-7 after being tied 7-7 after three quarters."
Like O'Neil, Kenny said his team just handed the victory to Hays High last week.
"We're up 3-0 at halftime and the defense was playing well," Kenny said. "But then the turnovers just killed us again."
Kenny said being at home will be a welcome respite from taking to the road.
"We get to wear our black jerseys and the home crowd and I expect it to be a good game as it usually is," Kenny said. "Scott City is well-coached, they've got excellent players. It will be fun to see what happens."
O'Neil said that his team had improved as well, with the defense limiting Pratt to just 107 total yards (42 rushing, 65 passing).
"They've played two talented teams and are making progress in the right direction," O'Neil said of the Tigers. "Their defense has not really allowed anyone to establish a running game yet and their young kids in the secondary are getting better every week. They're difficult to block for very long. Throw the records out the door because nobody cares when Scott City and Ulysses get together."
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Ulysses High School Stadium.
7 p.m. — Garden City at Great Bend; Sublette at Cimarron; Moscow at Ingalls; Wichita County at Stanton County; Holcomb at Kinsley; Hugoton at Guymon, Okla.; Syracuse at Lakin; Meade at SW Heights; Ness City/Dighton at Satanta; Elkhart at Clayton, N.M.; Greeley County at Wheatland/Grinnell; Deerfield vs. Argonia at Haviland; Palco at Healy/Western Plains. 7:30 p.m., Scott City at Ulysses.