Both Garden City and Hutchinson high schools find themselves in a similar situation to begin 2018, and it’s one neither school is accustomed to — potentially starting the season 0-3.
The two programs have had their share of success in recent memory, including seven state championships from 2004 to 2011 for the Salthawks and a 6A state semifinal appearance for the Buffaloes in 2013 — as well as a couple of other state playoff runs in recent memory.
And each team has been a mainstay in the playoffs, even before the postseason included every team in the classification.
But the start of this season has been a struggle to gain any wins, with both teams at 0-2 with all four losses coming by at least three touchdowns.
“They’re really in the same boat that we are,” GCHS head coach Brian Hill said. “They’ve struggled defensively, and they’ve had some bad luck at times. They’ve had kids in position to make plays, and they just haven’t.”
The Salthawks lost to Wichita West, 55-14 in week 1 and then were shut out by Maize, 49-0, a week ago. The Buffs lost 49-6 to No. 1-ranked Derby in their opener and then fell, 41-20, to Valley Center in week 2.
“Considering the amount of success we’ve had, the kids are responding pretty well,” Hutchinson first-year head coach Mike Vernon said. “We’ve just got to keep working on what we do. We’re a little hesitant.”
The Salthawks are utilizing more option concepts in their offense this year, and it’s taken a bit for the offense to get things down, Vernon said.
They are rushing for 182.5 yards per game, but that’s accompanied by just 20 yards in the air and seven fumbles lost. Those miscues are costly for a young team.
The Buffs know all about that, having begun their game against Valley Center with a muffed kickoff return and then a dropped sure-touchdown pass just minutes later. And Derby returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in week 1.
“We’ve had some bad things happen early in the game, and it just seems to shatter our confidence,” Hill said. “I think that’s just the fragile nature of our confidence. We’re hoping to make plays rather than going out there knowing you’re going to make a play.”
That’s why getting a win is so important for both teams.
“If we get a win, it makes the next week a lot easier,” Vernon said. “There’s a lot more pep in the step.”
And getting a win would build some confidence.
“We need to try to find a way to get off of (the skid) this week,” Hill said, “because the longer it goes, the harder it becomes.”
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at firstname.lastname@example.org.