By BRETT MARSHALL
Big football games come and go for many teams and coaches.
Nobody knows that better than Scott City's Glenn O'Neil.
He's won Mid-State Activities Association championships and played in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A playoffs each of the past two seasons as the mentor of the Beavers.
So when kickoff takes place Friday night at 7:30 p.m., and the Beavers are lined up in front of what is sure to be a noisy home crowd, O'Neil will likely be the calm in the storm as they take on the Norton Bluejays in a 3A District showdown.
Both teams won impressively last week in their respective district openers — Norton 48-0 over Ness/Dighton and Scott City by 42-0 over Goodland. The visiting Bluejays are 5-2 on the season with their two setbacks coming at the hands of 2A powerhouse Smith Center and to a strong Ellis team. Those teams have a combined won-loss record of 12-2 and Smith Center holds a nation-leading 73-game winning streak.
But those are for the fans and even though Norton handed the Beavers their first loss of 2008 by a 26-14 margin, O'Neil is only focused on Friday night's game.
"Last year was last year and this year is this year and that game has no effect on us except for us to use as a teaching tool," O'Neil said. "We are looking forward to playing a very good team. We think our league schedule with Pratt and Ulysses (4A schools) has prepared us for this type of game."
If the Beavers are to be successful, there will be two critical components for that to occur. First, their defense must contain Norton's running attack that is led by all-stater Terrence Lane, a bruising 210-pound junior who has been in and out of the Bluejay lineup due to injuries.
He, along with Zane Perez help the 'Jays average 157 yards rushing while quarterback Connor Pfannenstiel's passing has Norton averaging 135 yards in the air. His two favorite receivers are Ashton Draper and Landon Hamel, both with a pair of touchdown receptions.
"Norton is a very quick team with a lot of playmakers," O'Neil said. "They run a variety of sets trying to get their skill players the ball in one-on-one situations."
O'Neil remains pleased with his team's tenacity on defense. The Beavers have notched four shutouts thus far.
"The defense gave up just 29 yards rushing on 29 attempts and 40 yards through the air and we got two picks," O'Neil said. "We will need to continue to contain teams to the outside and force them inside."
Scott City's offense has been run by committee with junior quarterback Ron Baker handling the reins very well in place of the injured Dillon Stucky, out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Baker has completed 62 percent of his passes (38-of-61) for 704 yards and six touchdowns while throwing just two interceptions.
The Beavers' rushing game has been the pacesetter this season as they are averaging 262 yards per game and have scored 30 rushing touchdowns. Leading the way has been senior Alex Swan with 534 yards on just 60 carries for an 8.9 average. He's tallied 10 touchdowns.
Defensively, Scott City has been sparked by linebacker Calvin Erven and Morgan Numrich, who have amassed 67 and 60 tackles, respectively.
As the season has progressed, O'Neil has been pleased with his team's consistent effort.
"We played very well against Goodland," O'Neil said. "We scored on our first four offensive possessions and once on defense in the first quarter."
While two teams qualify for the state playoffs in each district, the champion of the district is usually awarded a first-round home game.
"The kids have been focused all season," O'Neil said. "I expect they will be ready to play and we're looking forward to it."
Friday's Area Prep Schedule
7 p.m., Goddard at Garden City; Sublette at Stanton County; Bucklin at Moscow; St. Francis at Wichita Co.; Holcomb at Lakin; Kingman at Hugoton; Cimarron at SW Heights; Elkhart at Satanta; Atwood at Syracuse; Greeley Co. at Ingalls; Goodland at Ness City/Dighton; So. Gray at DeerÔ¨Åeld; Western Plains at Thunder Ridge; 7:30 p.m., Norton at Scott City; Ulysses at Pratt.