By BRETT MARSHALL
Anybody who pays attention to western Kansas high school football schedules, likely had Friday circled on their calendar.
It marks the sixth week of the season, and features a matchup between a pair of unbeaten, state-ranked teams in Class 3A Scott City (5-0) and Class 4A Ulysses (5-0). Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Friday at Tiger Stadium.
Neither team has been particularly challenged through five games, with the Tigers' toughest outing to date being a 34-13 win at Hoisington, the first road game of the season after opening with three home games inlcuding a 42-20 romp over Class 5A Liberal.
"We're getting better each week and throwing the ball a bit more than in the past," said Ulysses' 12th year coach Jason Kenny.
"Our defense has improved, we're just starting to gel in both our offensive and defensive lines. The offensive line has taken a little bit longer, but that's normal. We're a work in progress. Overall, the defensive line has done a real good job for us each week."
The high-powered Ulysses offense can grind it out with the 1-2 combination of Josh Jarnagin and Armando Sandoval, and can air it out with quarterback Braden Langston and wide receiver Chase Newell.
Jarnagin, a member of the 2010 Telegram All-Area team, has been nicked up through the first half of the season and has seen limited carries (60 for 252 yards and seven touchdowns). Sandoval has picked up some of the slack with 331 yards on 52 carries and four TDs.
Langston has hit on 27-of-52 passes for 763 yards (28.3 yards per reception) while Chase Newell has been the big receiving threat with 10 catches for 394 yards, a whopping 39.4 yards per catch and three touchdowns.
"It's the game we're playing this week, and that makes it the most important on our schedule," said Scott City coach Glenn O'Neil. "In our league (Great West Activities Conference) everything goes through Ulysses if you want to win the championship. They are your typical Ulysses team. They've got great speed, they're physical and they like to attack you.
"They're very good in all three phases of the game. Defensively they play downhill and their line fires off at you. Second, they have a punishing ground game, and have big play-action passes with a good quarterback and receivers. Third, their special teams with Jarnagin are very good. They've got some of the fastest kids in our league."
Scott City, meanwhile, has replaced Ron Baker, the 2010 Telegram Player of the Year, at quarterback with junior Brett O'Neil, who has a group of thoroughbred runners to hand the ball to for a potent running attack.
The Beavers started the season with a 30-3 thumping of Class 6A Garden City and haven't slowed down since. They have yielded just 26 points in five lopsided wins while Ulysses' defense has given up just 41 points. The Beavers average 42.4 points a game compared to the Tigers' 39.8.
The Beavers' version of attack also comes in a variety of ways. They have their own version of a punishing running game, set up with an experienced, and talented, offensive line that has opened up holes for speedsters Dalton Buehler, Colborn Couchman and Dalton Smith. Those three have accounted for more than 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in just five games. Most of those scores resulted in the starters seeing limited action in the second half.
Couchman (424 yards, seven TDs), Buehler (410 yards, eight TDs) and Smith (201 yards, five TDs) were members of the Scott City Class 3A state champion 4x100-meter relay team last May.
"They're extremely talented, and while Scott City has had some excellent teams in recent years, I think this is the best overall Scott City team I've seen," Kenny said. "Usually when you watch film, you can find a weakness, and in all the films I've seen, I haven't found one yet. They're highly skilled, well-coached and I think they could win it all in 3A."
Kenny also praised for the Beavers' two defensive ends — Couchman (6-foot-2, 200) and Luke Hayes (6-foot-4, 255), who have accounted for a combined 17 tackles for loss.
"Those two can start for any team in the state of Kansas, and some teams that are playing on Saturdays," Kenny said.
Junior linebacker Drew Kite (6-foot-3, 200) is the team's leading tackler with 46 stops (20 solo) and six for a loss.
"We've been very consistent so far," O'Neil said. "We've been able to utilize our quickness to make some big plays and the defense has been solid all year. You could make a case that Ulysses is the same way as us. Look in a mirror, and you'll probably find the other team.
"They run a wing-T version and we run something similar. They run some spread, we run some spread. They've got size and are physical. We've got some size and are physical. The coaching staffs have been together for some time, too. We know each other, so it is always interesting to see how the game unfolds. We could play three weeks in a row and have three totally different types of games. It's just how everyone reacts to what is happening on that one night."
Kenny said his team is looking forward to the challenge, and opportunity, of facing the Beavers on Homecoming night at Tiger Stadium.
"These are the games you look forward to. It's a great chance to see how far we've come along," Kenny said. "You'd like to cause a few turnovers, get up on them early and try to play with them all four quarters. You're going to have to play the entire 48 minutes to win the game."
What: Scott City Beavers
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Ulysses, Tiger Stadium
League: Great West Activities Conference
Scott City (5-0, 4-0)
Head Coach: Glenn O'Neil (5th year, 43-9, .827)
Garden City — W, 30-3
Holcomb — W, 47-7
at Colby — W, 44-6
Goodland — W, 50-3
at Hugoton — W, 41-7
Ulysses Tigers (5-0, 2-0)
Head Coach: Jason Kenny (12th year, 96-32, .750)
Liberal — W, 42-20
Goodland — W, 27-0
Clayton, N.M. — W 49-0
at Hoisington — W, 34-13
at Colby — W, 47-8