By BRETT MARSHALL
When you visit with Stanton County football coach Bret Kendrick, you always get the feeling that he feels his team will be competitive on the field.
You get the same feeling in talking with Meade coach Scott Moshier.
Something will give when the two Hi-Plains League teams kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Stanton County High School Stadium in the Class 2A sub-state championship game. The winner punches a ticket to the state championship game on Nov. 27 at Fort Hays State University's Lewis Stadium.
"Meade's a great team and a darned hard team to beat," Kendrick said of the visiting Buffaloes, who bring a 10-1 record into the game, including a resounding 46-6 victory over the Trojans in the fifth game of the regular season, also the first game of their 2A district schedule. "If we don't turn the ball over, like we did in that game, then I think we've got a chance. Our margin of error has to be slim. If we don't play well, we'll be in trouble. If we play well, we'll be in the game."
For Moshier, in his fourth year at the Buffaloes' helm, his biggest concern is guarding against the age-old mindset of overconfidence after a big victory earlier in the season.
"We've got players from previous years who are coming to talk to this team about not being overconfident," Moshier said. "Years ago (1985) we beat Stanton County in the regular season and then lost to them in the first round of the playoffs. We are not taking them lightly. Our kids have done a great job of being focused this season, and I think we'll be focused on Friday night."
On the surface, Meade has every reason to be confident heading into the rematch. The Buffaloes rolled up more than 300 yards rushing from their highly-regarded single-wing offensive set in that first game against the Trojans.
"They're a good football team," Moshier said of the Trojans. "This is a sub-state game, and we don't need any extra motivation. This is one of our goals, and our team's goal has been we want to play for the state championship."
Meade claimed 2A state titles in 1972 and 1980 while Stanton County's lone state title came in 1983.
"I'm sure Bret will be talking to his kids about being the underdog," Moshier said. "We gave up some big plays, but for the most part our offense had the kind of drives we wanted and felt we were in control. They're known for their big plays, and they scorched Ellis and Ell-Saline. They deserve to be here just like we do."
The Buffaloes have yet to taste defeat at the hands of a Kansas team. They played perennial small-class Texas powerhouse Canadian in the season opener on the road and were beaten 36-6.
"It was a great lesson for us, and we learned a lot from that game," Moshier said. "The speed at which they played was as good as I've coached against, and it has made our kids more aggressive. We knew we weren't gonna see too many teams with that speed and power, and we were right."
As it happens in the coaching fraternity, Moshier has high regard for Kendrick and his coaching skills.
"He's a great guy and has done a great job with his team," Moshier said. "There are a lot of similarities between us. The good part of this is that somebody from our league will represent us, southwest Kansas, in the state championship game. It's a nervous time, but an exciting time."
For Kendrick, he will rely on the big-play offense spearheaded by running back Austin Nairn, who has more than 1,500 yards rushing. He is not the lone threat, though, as Marques Logan has more than 700 yards rushing and quarterback Quinn Kendrick, the coach's son, handles the option portion and play-action passing attack.
"Meade is big and well-coached," Kendrick said. "But it's hard to beat a team twice. It's not impossible, but it is difficult. It's a winner take all and the loser goes home. We just need to play good, solid fundamental defense."
Meade's single-wing offense is paced by seniors Kellan Hernandez and Jaden Friesen, along with sophomore Trevin Wiens and junior Adrian Pfanenstiel. The Buffs' offense has scored an average of 55 points in their nine on-field victories. One victory came on a forfeit from Satanta when the Indians didn't have enough players to compete. In those nine victories, the Buffs' defense has given up just 66 points. Stanton County, meanwhile, averages 34 points and gives up 12.6 points a contest. Since the loss to Meade, the Trojans defense has given up just 39 points in the six wins and has posted three shutouts.
The winner of Friday's game faces the winner of the Olpe-Pittsburg-St. Marys Colgan game, also slated for Friday night.
Head Coach: Scott Moshier
Overall Record: 10-1
Starting Offense — TB-Kellan Hernandez, 175, Sr.; FB-Jaden Friesen, 190, Sr.; WB-Trevin Wiens, 170, So.; BB-Adrian Pfanenstiel, 220, Jr.; E-Taylor Wiens, 180, Sr.; Randy Friesen, 210, So.; G-Weston Kroth, 230, Jr.; Manuel Castillo, 220, Jr.; C-Dylan Bolton, 185, Jr.; T-Blake Wornkey, 265, Sr.; Adam Gleason, 215, Sr.
Starting Defense — CB-Chris Hardaway, 155, So.; Colton Little, 150, Sr.; S-Hernandez; Trevin Wiens; LB-J. Friesen; Morgan Olvera, 170, Fr.; Dylan Reimer, 175, Jr.; E-Manuel Castillo, 220, Jr.; Pfanenstiel; NG-Kroth; T-Wornkey. Placekicker — Castillo; Punter — Pfanenstiel.
Season Results — Canadian, Texas L 36-6; Lakin, W 50-0; SW Heights, W 64-14; Cimarron, W 55-0; Stanton County, W 46-6; Syracuse, W 70-6; Satanta, W 2-0 (forfeit); Elkhart, W 57-14; Sublette, W 61-7; Postseason — Atwood, W 47-7; LaCrosse, W 44-12.
Stanton County Trojans
Head Coach: Bret Kendrick, 18th year
Overall Record: 10-1
Starting Offense — RB-Austin Nairn, 180, Sr.; Marcus Perez, 165, Sr.; Marques Logan, 190, So.; QB-Quinn Kendrick, 165, So.; OL-Colby Overturf, 185, So.; Tarquin Trujillo, 180, Jr.; Edgar Navarro, 205, Sr.; D.J. Logan, 195, Sr.; Eric Shironaka, 205, Sr.; Will Caswell, 230, Sr.; TE-Kyle Rodriguez, 175, So.
Starting Defense — DB-Nairn, Seth Holliday, 145, Jr.; Fabian Sierra, 165, Jr.; Kendrick; LB-Logan; Trujillo; Caswell; DL-Shironaka; Logan; Navarro; Overturf.
Season Results — Lakin, W 26-16; Wichita County, W 30-0; Atwood-Rawlins Co., W 50-12; Southwestern Heights, W 44-26; Meade, L 6-46; Sublette, W 47-18; Elkhart, W 14-0; Syracuse, W 46-0; Satanta, W 42-0; Postseason — Ellis, W 52-7; Ell-Saline, W 36-14.