On the line: Scott City, Ulysses battle in key tilt
By BRETT MARSHALL
It seems like a tried and true statement, and it certainly is.
When Scott City and Ulysses meet on the football field, there's a lot at stake.
Friday night, when the Beavers visit the Tigers, will be no exception.
The southwest Kansas rivals have a lot of early-season pride riding on the game's outcome, and also have the incentive of remaining unbeaten in the Great West Activities Conference race.
The Tigers will be trying to erase a five-game Scott City winning streak — the last time the Tigers came out on top was 2007, with a 31-0 triumph. Since then, the Beavers have rolled, with wins of 24-6, 27-0, 38-12, 27-13 and 49-13.
"We haven't held up our end of the rivalry in the recent games," said Ulysses coach Jason Kenny.
In an era where few leagues still have season champions, the GWAC is a rarity as all six schools compete for the coveted title. Now in its fourth year of existence, the league has had but one champion, Scott City.
The Beavers, last year's Class 3A state champions, are the owners of a 40-game regular-season winning streak, dating back to the final game of 2008 when they fell to Norton. But that streak almost ended a week ago, when it took a 19-yard field goal on the game's final play by German exchange student Tim Bolle for the Beavers to survive Holcomb, 31-28.
Scott City coach Glenn O'Neil has put that game in the file, and now has the concern of facing a Ulysses team that has played an early meat-grinder schedule, facing Class 5A Western Athletic Conference teams, Liberal (a 56-41 loss) and Great Bend (21-14 victory), before opening GWAC play last Friday with a resounding 52-16 win over Colby, a team the Beavers struggled with in Week 2, winning 28-12.
"They're still a very good football team," Kenny said on Wednesday of the Beavers. "They don't make mistakes. They don't beat themselves. They play at a high level. If you're looking at it differently from the outside, they don't have a (Drew) Kite or a (Colborn) Couchman, but they have kids who are talented. They're perhaps more of a finesse team and they throw the ball well."
Who will be throwing the ball for the Beavers will be one of the big questions that might not be answered until Friday night's kickoff. That's because starter Trey O'Neil, who dislocated his kneecap in the opening game of the season, but returned the following week, now has a banged-up shoulder that forced junior Brett Meyer into action against Holcomb. The Beavers rallied from a 28-21 fourth-quarter deficit to pull out the dramatic win. Meyer completed 12-of-14 passes for 140 yards.
"It will be determined a lot on how much he improves in the next 48 hours," coach O'Neil said of his son.
As always, O'Neil said he expects the best from both teams.
"It's always a big game, an important game on our schedule," O'Neil said of the Tigers. "They're really playing well. They've got big and fast running backs that remind me of some of the backs we've seen in recent years."
Rudzik, a 6-2, 220-pound sophomore, has rushed for 420 yards on just 47 carries (8.9 average) and scored seven touchdowns thus far. Junior running back Zac Romero (5-11, 200) has gained 330 yards on 44 attempts (7.5 average) and reached the end zone four times.
"We're playing more physical than we did in week one," Kenny said in discussing his team's progress.
O'Neil said he has been impressed with the Tigers' defense, focusing on its trio of linebackers.
What: Scott City at Ulysses
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Maxwell Field, Ulysses
Scott City (3-0, 2-0)
Mascot: Beavers (Blue, Navy and White)
Class: 3A-District 15
Abilene, W 40-13
Colby, W 28-12+
Holcomb, W 31-18+
Ulysses (2-1, 1-0)
Mascot: Tigers (Orange and Black)
Class: 4A-District 14
Liberal, L 56-41
Great Bend, W 21-14
Colby, W 52-16+