By BRETT MARSHALL
Making the football playoffs is nothing new for the Scott City Beavers, having made it almost an annual rite of passage from regular season games to advancing through the Class 3A postseason in recent years.
Not so for the Cimarron Bluejays, who have not made the playoffs since 1998 — until now.
The upstart Bluejays, who are 6-2 overall and 2-0 in Class 3A District 16, travel to Scott City on Thursday for the final regular season game against the unbeaten and No. 2-ranked Beavers (8-0, 2-0). Kickoff will be at 7 p.m. at O.L. Darner Field.
With each team claiming victories over Southwestern Heights and Lakin the past two weeks and posting victories, playoff berths are already decided.
The only thing left to chance now is who will be the district champion and have a home bi-district game next Tuesday while the runner-up will have to travel for its first-round matchup, most likely to Norton.
"We're the underdog, we know the role very well," said Cimarron coach Doug Minneman, whose teams had won only one game in each of his two previous seasons as head coach of the Bluejays.
"We understand where we're going and who we're playing. Scott City is such a good team. They are fundamentally sound, well-coached."
Minneman knows that his team will have to play its best game of the season to be in the hunt with the Beavers. His squad's two losses came against 2A Elkhart (25-8) in the season opener and 55-0 to powerhouse Meade midway through the season.
In their six wins, the Bluejays' defense has given up just 20 points, four of which have resulted in shutouts, and it will be that kind of effort his team will need to beat the Beavers.
"They've shown tremendous improvement and are playing physical football," said Scott City coach Glenn O'Neil. "They're not turning the ball over and defensively they'll give us some different looks that we've not seen too much."
The Beavers, meanwhile, have been rolling along for most of the season since starting with a 16-14 victory at Garden City. In the last seven wins, they are averaging 41 points while yielding just a touchdown a game.
"It's really hard to say for sure how much we've improved, although I know we have," O'Neil said. "We've not seen the competition that we did in the Garden City and Ulysses (38-12 win) games."
"But we're getting people healthy and we have a lot to play for. Nobody wants to go on the road next Tuesday to Norton for the first round game. We want to be here at home where it's more comfortable and you save hours of preparation by not having to travel."
Cimarron has relied on a strong running game throughout the season, paced by the tandem of Nate Baublits and Brady Barrett, each having gained just over 700 yards.
Taking snaps from center is quarterback Derek Hoskinson.
"Derek's doing a nice job for us, but we are more of running team," Minneman said. "We've been able to have some nice play-action passes to our receivers."
Minneman credits the team's turnaround season to its hard work last summer when more players spent time in the weight room and also attended summer camps.
"There's just been more dedication to the entire program," Minneman said. "Our seniors (eight) have done a great job, both on and away from the field."
For the Beavers, they will rely on their running game by committee, led by Dalton Smith, Dalton Buehler and Jason Williams.
Quarterback Ron Baker has not had to throw much this year due to the Beavers getting early leads and substituting freely.
"We feel like we've got experience although many of these kids didn't actually see playing time," O'Neil said. "These seniors have something to prove because a lot of people didn't think we'd be as good as some of the teams we've had."
"So far, they've responded to every team and we're where we want to be and just want to keep improving."
CIMARRON BLUEJAYS (6-2, 2-0)
Coach: Doug Minneman, 3rd year
Sept. 3 — ELKHART, L 25-8
Sept. 10 — at Satanta, W 41-0
Sept. 17 — at Sublette, W 34-0
Sept. 24 — MEADE, L 55-0
Oct. 1 — at Larned, W 40-0
Oct. 8 — TMP-MARIAN, W 40-14
Oct. 15 — at Lakin*, W 14-6
Oct. 22 — SW HEIGHTS*, W 41-0
Oct. 28 — at Scott City*
SCOTT CITY BEAVERS (8-0, 2-0)
Coach: Glenn O'Neil, 4th year
Sept. 3 — at Garden City, W 16-14
Sept. 10 — at Holcomb, W 39-0
Sept. 17 — COLBY, W 42-14
Sept. 24 — at Goodland, W 36-14
Oct. 1 — HUGOTON, W 35-7
Oct. 8 — ULYSSES, W 38-12
Oct. 15 — SW HEIGHTS*, W 55-6
Oct. 22 — at Lakin*, W 43-0
Oct. 28 — CIMARRON*
*--Indicates District game