By BRETT MARSHALL
You couldn't blame Stanton County High School football coach Bret Kendrick one bit if he thought he was listening to a song by Sonny and Cher when he awakens each morning this week.
Much like Bill Murray's character in "Groundhog Day," Kendrick's having a bit of dejð vu.
For Kendrick, though, he calls it a good feeling.
That's because his Trojans are right back in the Class 2A playoffs for the second straight year with an 8-1 record.
And for the second straight year, the Trojans hit the road to face Ellis, a team that finished 5-4 and won its district in the final game of the regular season over a favored Oakley team. That game has a 7 p.m. Friday kickoff at Ellis High School's stadium.
In last year's first-round game at Ellis, the Trojans rolled, winning convincingly by a 52-7 count.
The only blot on Stanton County's 2011 record is a 34-16 loss to defending state champion Meade, and the Buffaloes are the only team to have sent the Trojans to the locker room with an L over the past two seasons. In that stretch, the Trojans are 18-3.
"We've got a different team than the one we had a year ago," Kendrick said on Wednesday. "We've had to fill in some spots and I think our underclassmen have really stepped up and done a good job. We may be a little better in some areas, perhaps not as good in others, but overall, I think we're comparable."
What Kendrick has liked most is the fact that his offense produces big plays, and plenty of them.
Junior running back Marques Logan, moved over from the fullback spot where he blocked for the graduated Austin Nairn, has been the top rusher for the Trojans with 1,034 yards on 81 carries, a 12.8 yard average. He's scored 27 touchdowns.
"Austin had the great outside breakaway speed, but Marques (6-1, 195) has that inside running ability and can take that step right or left and then break it," Kendrick said. "Our line has gotten better as the season has progressed. That's the area where we had the most to replace."
Quinn Kendrick, the coach's son, has been rock-solid as well. He has rushed 47 times for 708 yards (15.1 average) with seven touchdowns. He's hit 28-of-45 passes for 412 yards and has thrown just two interceptions.
Kendrick's favorite targets have been Fabian Sierra and Seth Holliday, both of whom have five catches, but average nearly 30 yards per reception. Sierra also has 455 rushing yards on 36 attempts along with 12 TDs.
"We don't use passing a lot, but if they bring a bunch of guys into the box, we're going to loosen them up," Kendrick said. "I'd say our passing game has become more mature. We seem to know when is the right time to use it."
The fact that the opening playoff game is back in Ellis makes it not as daunting a task as perhaps it was in 2010. The rout of Ellis was followed by a 36-14 romp over Ell-Saline before being eliminated by their Hi-Plains League nemesis, Meade, 44-26, in the state semifinals.
"We went and saw the Oakley-Ellis game last week, and afterwards, I was telling my assistant that I feel good about the game," Kendrick said. "Ellis is a good team, everybody that has made it this far is good. They've got some talented players. We've traveled there, we know the stadium, we know the field. We know what to expect. All the kids have been through it. It's a matter of going there, staying focused on what we want to do, and see what happens."
A victory over Ellis would set up a quarterfinal match-up against the winner of the Salina-Sacred Heart vs. Plainville game on Nov. 11. The Trojans would host should they advance.
See pairings in Scoreboard, Page B2.