By BRETT MARSHALL
In his first three seasons as head football coach at Scott City High School, Glenn O'Neil has seen a high-level of consistency from his Beavers.
This year is no exception.
Having completed their second straight regular season unbeaten, the Beavers began their Class 3A playoff quest on Tuesday with a solid, if not spectacular, 35-3 rollover of the Goodland Cowboys in their bi-district contest.
That victory put the Beavers into the state limelight for their Saturday regional contest when they travel to Smith Center to play the Redmen with a 4 p.m. kickoff slated. The Redmen have moved up from Class 2-1A this year after winning five consecutive state titles and finishing second a year ago when they lost 20-12 in overtime to Centralia, snapping a national-best 79-game winning streak.
The Redmen, coached by veteran Roger Barta, have won nine state championships in his 30-plus years at Smith Center, dating back to the early 1980s.
"They're doing what got them there," O'Neil said of the Redmen, who still run the wishbone, triple-option offense. "They're steady, they run their stuff and all of a sudden they pop one. Their halfbacks are quick, their fullback keeps everyone honest, and they try to be very physical."
O'Neil said he had been able to watch game films of the Redmen, including some from the previous season.
"They just line up in a double tight-end and run a fullback dive, a belly play, isolations and the quarterback keeper off the option," O'Neil said. "We're working on taking care of our responsibilities and recognizing that they can utilize any of the three and we've got to have people staying at home on their assignments."
O'Neil did a quick reflection on the Beavers' methodical dismantling of Goodland on Tuesday.
In the playoff opener, the Cowboys did something no team had done all year against the Beavers: grab an early lead when they booted a 37-yard field goal on their first possession of the game. It was the first time this season the Beavers found themselves trailing.
From there, the Cowboys never came close to the end zone despite several long plays by their high-powered offense. O'Neil was pleased with the performance of his defense.
"The kids reacted to the challenge we gave them at halftime (leading 14-3) and I thought we played more physical in the second half. The defense, especially, played well in the last half."
As Scott City has done all year, the Beavers' flex offense gained the most yards on ground, rushing for 321 yards on 40 attempts and averaging eight yards per carry.
Junior Dalton Smith led all rushers with 121 yards on just nine carries while fullback Colborn Couchman gained 85 yards on 14 attempts. Sophomore Dalton Buehler had 60 yards on just six carries.
"I thought we finally did a good job of blocking on their ends and linebackers," O'Neil said of his offensive line. "Goodland has some very good athletes who are quick to pursue, but we did enough to establish the run game better."
It was, and is, the passing game that concerns O'Neil heading into the Smith Center game.
Against Goodland, quarterback Ron Baker was just 2-of-10 for 64 yards, with several balls under and overthrown and a couple of others dropped.
"The passing game was not very good," O'Neil said. "We haven't had to rely on it completely but I feel like we didn't play that well offensively. We dropped a few passes and we're giving it attention in practice."
The Beavers are no strangers to making it to the second round of the playoffs.
In fact, they have made the quarterfinals four straight years only to fall short each time. That is one of the goals the Beavers have this time around, with the Redmen standing in the way.
"We've been fortunate to have the type of kids who are committed to playing," O'Neil said. "This is not a rare occasion for us, but we should always enjoy it."
"It gives us extra practices to build for the future while playing in the present. This is the part of coaching that is satisfying. This is the fun part of the season."
A victory Saturday would put the Beavers back into that familiar position of being in the sectional championship.
The winner of the Garden Plain-Conway Springs game will await the Scott City-Smith Center winner next Friday.