By BRETT MARSHALL
It was just a year ago that Holcomb ventured to Scott City in Week 4 of the football season as the unbeaten Longhorns took on the undefeated Beavers. Scott City won 20-6, then in the Class 3A playoffs eliminated the Longhorns, 19-0, in the first round. Those were the only two losses for coach Jerry Johnson's senior-laden team.
Now, the Beavers come to Holcomb on Friday night for a 7 p.m. kickoff and find themselves in a similar situation — almost. They are 3-0 and ranked No. 1 in The Telegram's area poll. Holcomb, meanwhile, with just two returning starters, is 2-1 and just trying to keep improving.
"The thing I like about our team is their willingness to learn," Johnson said of his team. "We've never had to yell at them to work harder. They love to work and get better every week."
Johnson knows all too well about the problems that Scott City presents to his youthful group.
"They are very, very fast and athletic," Johnson said of the Beavers, who have yet to give up a defensive touchdown in three games. "They pass the ball more this year than in the past and they just like to spread the field and get to the corners and use their speed. They were more of a bruising running team last year."
Scott City coach Glenn O'Neil understands his colleague's situation with a lack of returning starters.
"They lost a lot of very good seniors and we've got a lot of seniors so we're going to face that next year," O'Neil said. "I think they certainly have gotten better every week, they're disciplined on defense and they're quick to get to the ball. They're a typical Holcomb team and they've got a great linebacker in (Nathan) Gonzales who is the guy that's in your huddle — he seems to know where the ball is all the time."
O'Neil said he would give his team a variety of grades after three games, but was concerned about his team's special teams considering they've already had two snaps over the punter's head, one of which resulted in the only touchdown scored by the opposition (by Pratt).
"We've given up a couple of returns as well and we can't continue to do that if we want to be competitive with good teams," O'Neil said. "Our defense, though, has been pretty good. I like the way we pursue, but we can obviously get better, too."
O'Neil bemoaned the probable loss of senior back Marshall Anliker, who suffered a shoulder injury in the Beavers' 27-0 victory over Ulysses last week. Anliker is possibly out for the season and the Beavers had already lost starting quarterback/defensive back Dillon Stucky before the season got underway with a possible tear of the anterior cruciate ligament. Stucky is rehabbing the knee and his status remains uncertain, but he will not play Friday night.
Holcomb's top offensive threats have come from receiver Troy DeLaRosa and quarterback Logan Singhisen. Since falling 30-0 in their opener to Hoisington, the Longhorns have victories over Sublette (12-6 in overtime) and Kinsley (37-0). Scott City's offensive attack remains balanced with Alex Swan being among the team leaders in rushing, receiving and getting help from Dalton Smith and Justin Williams.
Ron Baker, Stucky's replacement at quarterback, has provided a new threat for opposing teams.
"He's a very good passer and they seem to be opening it up more and using the weapons that they have," Johnson said of Baker.
O'Neil concurred with his coaching counterpart.
"Ron's right where we thought he'd be," he said. "He's making pretty good decisions and he's got the trust of his teammates."