Game of the Week: La Crosse, Plainville meet up again
Published on -11/17/2011, 10:03 AM
By CONOR NICHOLL
Coach Joe Simon has issued the same mantra for his Plainville High School football team the last several weeks: "We want to put our blacks on one more time, come back home one more time."
After road playoff wins at Salina-Sacred Heart and Johnson-Stanton County, the Cardinals earned another home contest and will wear their black uniforms in the Class 2-1A sub-state championship game Friday.
"It's going to be a packed house," Simon said. "I think they enjoy wearing (black). I don't know if it's a mentality thing or what. I personally think they look meaner in them."
The 10-1 Cardinals will play host to 11-0 La Crosse in a 7 p.m. kickoff. In Week 9, the Leopards defeated Plainville, 14-8, in La Crosse.
"I told the kids, what we did a couple weeks ago has no bearing on this game," La Crosse coach Jon Webster said. "We have to go there with the idea that we are going to play a physical, fast football game. We can't rest on the things we have done in the past."
The contest represents the first home playoff game for Plainville since 1992 and La Crosse's first sub-state championship appearance in school history. Plainville fans are expected to wear black for a "Black-Out." At home this year, Plainville is 5-0 and has outscored opponents 250-46.
"We are back in our own black uniforms," senior lineman/linebacker Nathan Thyfault said. "I don't know what it is about us -- it makes us look good, it makes us play good, I guess. Seeing the fans being all in black, it's going to be awesome."
Plainville has brought in extra seating for the game, arguably the area's most anticipated football game since a 2008 contest between Smith Center and La Crosse.
"I think the place is going to be a zoo, I really do," Webster said. "We had a lot of people down here for our first one (in Week 9). They traveled well. I think we are going to travel really, really well. I think there is going to be a lot of people in the area who have no ties to Leopard football or Plainville football who are going to go just to watch two physical teams play each other."
Simon and Webster are longtime friends since their playing days at Dodge City Community College. The duo stayed in contact throughout the years and Simon tried to get on Webster's staff at La Crosse before he took over at Plainville. This year, the two teams met up for three days at the Fort Hays State University summer camp.
Throughout the season, Simon and Webster have met every Sunday in Hays to watch the Chiefs and talk football.
"It's been fun coaching against him," Simon said.
Both coaches have taken different routes to Friday. La Crosse, a longtime state power, has never been able to break through and reach sub-state until it defeated Meade, 21-12, last week. Plainville, which won Class 3A titles in 1980 and 1985, hadn't enjoyed a winning season since 1994. It went a combined 1-18 in 2008 and 2009. They started 0-5 last year, but is 13-2 since -- with both losses to La Crosse.
"I am very proud and couldn't be happier and prouder of my seniors," Simon said. "These guys have stuck in there. Their careers started out in high school not very well, and they just progressed and kept working and getting better every year and becoming better leaders."
The four seniors -- Thyfault, lineman Jameson Klein, end/linebacker Andrew Casey and quarterback Kyle Becker -- form the foundation for Plainville. They've helped the Cardinals rush for 325 yards a game. Junior Trevor Axelson leads the team with 1,314 yards in the double tight end, power running game that has outscored opponents 420-123. Junior fullback Harrison Gilliland (802 yards) missed last week's game with a hyperextended knee, but is expected to play Friday. Plainville has rushed for 300-plus yards in nine of 11 games, but collected a season-low 119 against La Crosse.
"Our blocking needs to be a lot better, just driving, because we kept on just pushing, and then letting go, and then they got off," Thyfault said of the loss. "I think we need to block a lot better up front."
La Crosse features a more balanced attack with multiple formations. Junior Levi Morss has rushed for 1,171 yards and senior quarterback Tayler Stull has rushed for 1,109 yards and passed for 880 yards for a team that has beaten opponents 497-134.
He has accounted for 33 scores, and according to Webster, made one poor passing decision all year.
"He is a kid that has tremendous fire, really loves to compete," Webster said. "When we need him at his best, he is at his best."
Defensively, junior defensive back William Storie won't play after he suffered a concussion last week against Meade. He would have seen time on special teams and would have likely played a backup role on a defense that has picked off 31 passes, one off the state record. Senior Austin Webs paces Kansas with nine interceptions.