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Minneapolis 68, Russell 35

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Game of the Week: Hoxie a little banged up

Published on -9/6/2012, 11:40 AM

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Sharon Springs-Wallace County High School coach Kevin Ayers sees many strengths when he breaks down Hoxie on film. The Indians are 13-6 since the start of the 2010 season, including a 1-1 record versus Sharon Springs. Hoxie opened the fall with a 52-6 victory against Tribune-Greeley County last week.

"A very quick and talented offensive backfield," Ayers said. "They were running behind a good-sized offensive line. I was very impressed with how physical they played against Tribune. They are doing the little things and doing them well and that's going to make them difficult to defend. They run to the football extremely well. You can tell, they are well-coached."

Hoxie, under fourth-year coach Lance Baar, has established itself as one of the area's upper-tier teams. The Indians, coming off back-to-back 6-3 seasons, are one of 13 area squads that have won at least six games in the last two seasons. However, Hoxie is the only one of that group that hasn't made the playoffs. Three areas have helped hold back Hoxie: injuries, close losses and not playing physical enough.

"That has made them even more hungry," Baar said. "They definitely want to go out there and get it done."

Two years ago, Hoxie lost running back Dylan Bainter to a knee injury early in the season, struggled against Hill City and Osborne in district play and lost to Quinter by two points. Last fall, the Indians narrowly missed the playoffs after a four-point loss to Osborne and a 16-point defeat to Quinter.

As well, Hoxie lost 30-22 to Sharon Springs, a game that was a turning point for both teams. Sharon Springs had to play with backup quarterback Kyle Gfeller because of a concussion the week prior to starter Gavin Mote. Sharon Springs converted multiple fourth downs and had big plays from a variety of players. On Friday, Hoxie travels to Sharon Springs in a matchup that Baar and Ayers said now has a near-rivalry feel.

"After the game was over, I just kind of felt like we got beat up front, both sides of the ball," Baar said. "I know they dominated us, offensive line, defensive line. They were so much more physical and ever since that game last year, we've been stressing how much more physical we need to be. Hopefully we go down there and we can be a little bit more physical with them."

Baar believes Hoxie has been a little more physical this season, but said the technique is "not there yet."

This week, Baar planned to re-emphasize some areas the team focused on in two-a-days.

Hoxie likely will be without two returning starters in junior end Tyler Kaus and senior lineman/linebacker P.J. Carter, who suffered knee injuries in practice. Freshman running back Austin Rietcheck collected seven carries for 28 yards versus Greeley County, but then suffered a broken ankle and is out. In last week's win, Baar estimated five Indians made their first career varsity starts.

"They have gained some experience and they kind of stepped up to the plate and have done a good job for us," Baar said.

Junior Chase Kennedy took over at quarterback for Colton Spresser, who graduated after posting a solid season last year. Kennedy went 2-of-2 passing for 63 yards and rushed seven times for 63 yards. By the end of the year, Baar expects Kennedy to be "right up there" with what Spresser accomplished in the passing game last season (723 yards, 8/4 TD/INT).

Kennedy also forms one-fourth of a talented backfield. Baar is comfortable with all four running the ball, a group that includes seniors Steven Yergey and Matthew Heim and sophomore Connor Katt. Yergey is more of a fullback-type runner, while Katt and Kennedy are quick and jukey, and Heim can get to the outside. They helped Hoxie rush 38 times for 262 yards last Friday. Heim led the group with eight carries for 99 yards and two scores.

Senior Brandon Salmans, the team leader with 83 tackles last season, recorded eight tackles, and a sack and a touchdown last Friday. Salmans played guard and defensive end and anchors the line. Baar believes Salmans will play at an all-state level that Hoxie linemen Dillon Salmans and Jaxsen Moss delivered the past two years.

"He is our best offensive and defensive lineman this year," Baar said.

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