By BRETT MARSHALL
Friday night when the Ulysses Tigers travel to Scott City to take on the Beavers, the game will pit two of western Kansas' tradition-rich programs against each other.
The game, set for a 7 p.m. kickoff at O.L. Darner Field, also will showcase two of the top coaches in the western part of the state on opposite sidelines.
Ulysses' Jason Kenny is in his 11th season at the Tiger controls and has an 87-30 record (.744 winning percentage) while Glenn O'Neil has guided the Beavers to a 33-8 record (.805 percentage) midway through his fourth season.
The Beavers are rolling again as they have in the last few seasons, coming into the game with a 5-0 record while Ulysses, after falling to Class 5A Liberal in the opening game, has won four straight, including three steamroll victories in which they have outscored Clayton, N.M., Hoisington and Colby by a combined 144-16 score.
In addition, the teams are playing for the first time in the newly-formed Great West Activities Conference and are unbeaten in GWAC play. It is Scott City's final league game and a win would give them the outright GWAC title.
"Our goal has been to get better, and the kids have been improving," said Ulysses' Kenny. "Our offensive line has started to jell, and they've been blocking better."
That sets up the Tigers' offense, which is led by quarterback Braden Langston. The running game is paced by junior Josh Jarnagin and sophomore Armando Sandoval.
"Jarnagin is a very good back, and Sandoval has excellent speed," O'Neil said of the Tigers' tandem. "They're throwing the ball a little more than usual and going against their trends and that makes the defense more having to stay at home."
O'Neil said he expects the typical, hard-fought game between the two tradition-rich schools.
"Ulysses will come in here and pin their ears back and come after you," O'Neil said. "We've got to play physical with them if we want to do the things necessary to win."
The Beavers, who had much of their skill position players returning intact for this season, have had to not only adjust to new linemen but also to playing with injuries and now illness.
"We're a little sick this week," a hoarse-voiced O'Neil said Wednesday. "We've had two starters miss school, about five others have been here coughing, but we hope they'll be back, but it will make it tough as far as being winded during the game."
O'Neil has had four different players starting at offensive guard positions and three combinations of tackles.
"The kids have had to be flexible in being moved around," O'Neil said.
Kenny said that the Beavers are once again blessed with a depth of talent, especially at the offensive skill spots.
"They're fundamentally very sound," Kenny said of Scott City. "Their kids are tough, and they're physical. They're athletic and well-coached."
In senior quarterback Ron Baker (6-2, 195), Kenny said the Beavers have perhaps the best all-around athlete in the area.
"He can take over a game, and we're going to have to key on him and slow him down some way," Kenny said. "They are still very good defensively and have given up few yards and points all year. Yards and points will be at a premium, so we're going to have to take advantage when we can."
Scott City's traditionally strong running game has taken a back seat to the passing of Baker in the last two games as the Beavers have piled up 430 yards passing in wins over Goodland and Hugoton.
"Teams have put seven, eight players stacked in the box against us, and we've had to do some different things," O'Neil said. "We're fortunate to have somebody like Ron who can make those adjustments."
Scott City has won the two most recent contests, posting wins of 27-0 in 2009 and 24-6 in 2008 while Ulysses' last victory came in 2007, a 31-0 shutout.
of the Beavers.