Both Valley Center’s Hornets and Garden City’s Buffaloes would just as soon forget their season-opening football games of last Friday.
The Hornets, under first-year head coach Scott L’Ecuyer, and the Buffs, under ninth-year mentor Brian Hill, sputtered mightily out of the gate to open the 2018 campaign.
Valley Center got thumped 49-0 by highly-regarded Maize High while the Buffs were spanked by the No. 1-ranked Class 6A Derby Panthers, 49-6, a game that had the running clock from the early portions of the third quarter.
Friday night, these two teams will meet for the first-ever time in a 7 p.m. kickoff at Buffalo Stadium, and each hopes to leave with a cleansing from Week 1’s debacles.
L’Ecuyer said his team performed well below the expectations considering the Hornets returned its entire offensive line intact along with a couple of skill position players.
“From the offensive standpoiint, we hang our hats on the run game, and our offensive line just didn’t block well,” L’Ecuyer said in a Wednesday telephone interview. “Defensively, we came in with a lot of inexperienced kids and that’s how they played.”
But fret not, L’Ecuyer said the team’s overall mission is improvement each week, with the end goal of playing their best football at the end of the season.
“We tell the kids that champions finish and that it’s not how you start,” L’Ecuyer said.
His initial scouting report on the Buffs was cause for concern as Garden City’s size up front and across the first two levels of defense is considerably bigger than the Hornets.
“Their offensive line is big and that size presents a big challenge for our kids,” L’Ecuyer said. “Their linebackers are also big, but very athletic, so we’ve got issues to face on both sides of the ball.”
The Hornet mentor is hopeful that his team will eradicate the offensive frustrations and be able to move the ball on the ground against the Buffs’ defense.
“We’ve got some good skill position players, but perhaps not the amount of speed that we’ve had in recent years,” L’Ecuyer said. “We’re definitely gonna have to rely on performing our schemes well.”
For the Buffs’ Hill, facing another new opponent only creates the opportunities that he enjoys in matching wits across the field.
“They’ve got a new coach and have put in new things, so we’re not exactly sure what we’ll see,” Hill said. “They lost a decent size graduating class, so I anticipate they’ve got some new faces just like us.”
After watching film of the Derby blowout, something that he had hoped would not transpire, Hill said he would need to have his team play more relentless and not so reckless in the way he described their performance against Derby.
“Our offensive couldn’t sustain drives as we’d get a sack, have a penalty and there was no consistency in how we performed,” Hill said, still emphasizing that he started three sophomores, a junior and a freshman across the offensive line to go up against a veteran and older Derby defense. “The defense was put into bad positions and just couldn’t hold things up throughout the game.”
Hill did admit that the Buffs might not see another team as talented as Derby, so it’s now critical to begin the regrouping process and make improvements if they are to get on track for the next seven weeks.
“We’ve got to play with more intensity, more relentlessness because we wasted a lot of energy the other night,” Hill said. “The temperature was 106 when we took the field and I think we just hit that fatigue level somewhere along the way. And we had 5-6-7 guys playing both ways at times.”
Hill re-emphasized just how young his team is at this point in time.
“For a lot of those kids, it was their first varsity game, and now they understand the level of play it takes,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better than Friday night vs. Derby. They’re gonna have to practice harder and will need to complete their assignments.”
Hill said he thought newcomer and Holcomb transfer Reece Morss played about as well as anybody, making one interception and gaining a few hard-earned yards against a tenacious Derby defense.
“He had a lot of game experience coming in and I thought he made some good plays,” Hill said.
Hill said that despite the lopsided setback, he’s still excited about his young group of players.
“I said all along that this will be a process, and I still believe we’ll get better as the season goes along,” Hill said. “I don’t know how that translates into wins and losses, but we’re gonna get better.”
Following this week’s home opener, the Buffs will be on the road in Week 3 at Hutchinson.