By BRETT MARSHALL
SCOTT CITY At 9 a.m. Saturday, six days before the 2011 high school football season was to kickoff for the Garden City Buffaloes and Scott City Beavers, Garden City coach Brian Hill, his staff and players were going over films from the Brown and White scrimmage on Friday night.
In Scott City, coach Glenn O'Neil, his staff and players were going through special team drills at O.L. Darner Field in just t-shirts and shorts.
Both teams were beginning to put in preparations for the 7:30 p.m. Friday kickoff which the Beavers will host at Darner Field.
It was just a year ago that the two western Kansas programs played for the first time since 1964 and the Beavers came away with a dramatic 16-14 victory that wasn't sealed until the closing moments when a potential game-winning, 44-yard field goal by Garden's Carlos Chavez came up just short with 30.8 seconds remaining, thus preserving the Beavers' victory.
Now, though, with solid returners on both teams, but also with many newcomers on the rosters, the schools will likely be playing for the last time, at least for the near future.
According to O'Neil, diminishing numbers in the lower classes will not make this game nearly as attractive or equitable in the long run. Thus, Friday night will bring an end to the short renewal.
"We could play them again next year (2012), but the numbers really go down after that," O'Neil said. "I think most would agree that as long as the game looks like it would be competitive, to play is a good thing. If it's not, though, both schools need to play schools more close to their size."
Hill said on Wednesday that he felt his team was eager for the rematch against the Beavers, if for no other reason than they would get to play a game that counts and to see where their offseason and preseason practices have put them.
"It's been a long time since we've been on the field to compete, so we want to see how much we've progressed," Hill said. "We may not have some of the same type of athletes we graduated from last year, but we've got more depth, and we're more acclimated to the system. The kids know better what our expectations are and they know the system better."
The second-year Buffs' coach said he knows his team will be in for quite a tussle when the teams meet on Friday at what is expected to be another hot late summer night with temperatures expected in the mid to upper-90s.
"Scott City's got some great kids on their team, and they're well-coached," Hill said of the Beavers. "They're very disciplined, and they don't make a lot of mistakes. The thing I like about Scott City is their program is bigger than any one player, and they do what they're good at."
A year ago, Scott City made the 35-mile trek to Garden City with a relatively inexperienced team, and left town confident of its future. That carried into 10 consecutive wins before being eliminated by Smith Center in the second round of the 3A state playoffs. Garden City, meanwhile, struggled early in 2010 under then first-year coach Hill. The Buffs regrouped with a four-game winning streak in the last half of the season and made the 6A playoffs for the first time in four years. Their season came to a crunching halt, on the short end of a 49-7 loss to eventual state champion Wichita Heights.
The Beavers return eight offensive and seven defensive starters from a year ago while the Buffs claim six returners on each side of the ball.
While Scott City has the majority of its backfield intact, Garden City's experience comes primarily in its offensive and defensive lines. Perhaps it's a version of the unstoppable force vs. the immovable object.
O'Neil is keenly aware of the speed he has returning to this year's edition and he plans to continue the strong running game that has characterized his Scott City teams over his five years at the helm.
O'Neil's version of a running game is done by committee, and that group includes seniors Colborn Couchman and Dalton Smith, and junior Dalton Buehler. Those three were 75 percent of the Beavers' Class 3A state 4x100-meter relay team last May. All are strong; all are fast.
"We've got some good skill players and have some depth," O'Neil said.
Buehler gained 643 yards and scored nine touchdowns a season ago while Couchman had 508 yards with a matching nine TDs. Smith followed with 488 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Garden City's front line returners include seniors Gabe Luna (6-3, 265) and Jason Carreon (6-2, 275) at tackles, and juniors Mitch Moore (6-1, 240) at center and Taylor Foley (6-1, 200) at tight end. Senior Tony Rubio, the team's leading rusher in 2010 with more than 400 yards, also returns.
Both teams will be breaking in a new quarterback, but not new players. Those two are in the person ofs junior Brett O'Neil, the coach's son, and Jake Curran for the Buffs. Both were wide receivers a year ago O'Neil catching passes from Ron Baker, The Telegram's Area Player of the Yearand he brings a wealth of knowledge to the team.
"Aside from me, Brett knows the offense better than anybody," coach O'Neil said. "I think his great strength is he recognizes what's on the field and his knowledge of the defense is strong. But we're not gonna count on our QB to run the ball; we've got three or four quality backs, and our offense is built around the running game. The main thing is to maintain the offense on the field."
Garden City and Hill also will be breaking in a new varsity quarterback in Curran. Like the younger O'Neil, Curran played wide receiver for the Buffs his junior year, catching passes from three-year starter Cody Bernbeck. Curran, who has played QB throughout his playing career, is comfortable once again back behind center.
"Jake has steadily improved through the summer workouts and this preseason," Hill said of his quarterback. "He's played the position most of his life, so we're just trying to put together things where he can be comfortable, execute and use his skills."
Defensively, the Buffs have starters back on its three levels, but they will be without end Seth Alexander, who is recovering from knee surgery eight days ago and is expected to be out two to four weeks. Miguel Andrade is the other D-lineman returning. Junior linebacker Brady Bean, the team's leading tackler a year ago, anchors the second level. Seniors Asa Gottsponer, Steven Fowler and Curran all return to the secondary.
"The importance of the game is because of the confidence it can build. This is not a make or break game. It's a game on our schedule against a very good team with a very good coaching staff. It's the game you'd want to be at if you weren't coaching or playing somewhere else. We should have an outstanding crowd, and there is a lot to play for, but you just have to keep the game in perspective."
O'Neil said he has a big measure of respect for his counterpart who will be on the opposite sideline Friday night. He's known the Buffs' head coach since he was recruiting the Scott City area for Garden City Community College.
"We have a good working relationship, and it was a lot different when he was at the college," O'Neil said. "We have an honest relationship, and we've assured each other that we won't go scout the scrimmages. Neither of us fudges on that. Last year, I thought his kids played as clean a game as anybody we played.
"There was no trash talking and it was kept clean between the lines. I was impressed with how respectful they were to the officials and how they acted and treated each other. I have a lot of respect for coach Hill, and he's got a lot of good coaches on his staff."
Garden City vs. Scott City
Garden City leads series 29-8-3
1st Meeting: 1920, Garden City 13-0
Last Meeting: 2010, Scott City 16-14, at Garden City
1920 Garden City, 13-0
1921 Garden City, 13-7
1922 Garden City, 13-7
1923 Garden City, 89-0
1924 Garden City, 20-6
1925 Garden City, 19-6
1926 Tie, 0-0
1927 Scott City, 19-7
1928 Scott City, 19-6
1929 Scott City, 13-12
1930 Scott City, 13-0
1931 Scott City, 13-0
1932 Tie, 0-0
1933 Scott City, 18-7
1934 Tie, 6-6
1935 Garden City, 31-12
1936 Garden City, 25-6
1937 Garden City, 13-0
1938 Garden City, 18-7
1939 Garden City, 19-6
1940 Scott City, 13-0
1941 Garden City, 61-6
1942 Garden City, 34-13
1943 Garden City, 52-0
1944 Garden City, 21-0
1945 Garden City, 13-7
1946 Garden City, 6-0
1947 Garden City, 31-0
1948 Garden City, 21-0
1949 Garden City, 42-7
1950 Garden City, 12-6
1951 Garden City, 26-20
1952-1957 No Games
1958 Garden City, 12-6
1959 Garden City, 33-13
1960 Garden City, 20-13
1961 Garden City 53-13
1962 Garden City, 38-13
1963 Garden City, 21-7
1964 Garden City, 12-6
1965-2009 No Games
2010 Scott City, 16-14
2011 Sept. 2, at Scott City, 7:30 p.m.
Biggest margin of victory for Garden
City: 89-0, 1923.
Biggest margin of victory for Scott
City: 13 points, four times.
Most points scored by teams: 89 by
Garden City, 1920; 20 by Scott City,
1951, in 26-20 loss.
Ties: 1926, 1932 and 1934.
Series information compiled and
provided by Tim McGonagle,
Kansasprepfootball.com, Scott City