Hoxie looks for more than just qualifying
Published on -10/30/2012, 10:03 AM
By NICK McQUEEN
Step No. 1 for the Hoxie High School football team -- make the playoffs.
Step 2, prove the Indians belong in the Eight-Man Division I field.
The Indians achieved the first goal in convincing fashion last week, disposing of one-loss Atwood-Rawlins County, 54-8 in a game called midway through the fourth quarter via the mercy rule.
Now, the task becomes greater with Hoxie traveling to Jetmore-Hodgeman County (7-2), a perennial contender and powerhouse in the eight-man ranks. Game time is 7 p.m. today in Jetmore.
"It's not just about making the playoffs, we have to go do something," Hoxie coach Lance Baar said after his Indians moved to 7-2 with the win last week. "We have to make a name for ourselves. We can't just be the team that makes it and then goes out and gets 45'd."
Hoxie had been close the previous two season playing eight-man, finishing 6-3 twice, but was one win away each time.
This season's only setback in district play was to title-favorite Ness City, the No. 1 ranked team in the statewide media poll.
However, with a strong defensive effort, Hoxie held the Eagles to their lowest output of the season and closest margin of victory, 38-6.
Hodgeman Co. also lost to Ness City, 58-12. The other loss was to Fowler, 30-26, to open the season.
"I've been very close the past three years -- always so close," Hoxie senior lineman Brandon Salmans said. "We're hungry, so we came out and finally got us a piece of it."
Salmans is a big reason the Indians are able to get that chance. The Indians most experience lineman, Salmans leads Hoxie with 85 total tackles (9.4 per game and 2.5 sacks. Offensively, the bulk of Hoxie's plays run to Salmans' left side, helping the Indian gain 1,986 yards on the ground.
"Pretty big part. If it wasn't for him pushing those people around, who knows?" Baar said of Salmans, also a two-time 3-2-1A state wrestling qualifier. " I looked up one time and he had a guy and was pushing him 10 yards down field. That's huge. When he comes out, he can do that to almost anyone."
Senior tailback Mathew Heim and junior quarterback Chase Kennedy have been the biggest beneficiares, combining for 1,074 of the Indians' rushing yards. Heim had a season-high 132 in last week's win with a score in the first half.
In the Indians' other loss to unbeaten Sharon Springs-Wallace County, Hoxie also held the Wildcats to their lowest output of the season in a 20-6 Week 2 setback. That was also the Wildcats' closest margin of victory.
If all works out for Hoxie, a rematch would be in store with Ness City, but the Indians aren't taking anything for granted.
"Sure, we'd like to take another crack at Ness City later on, but we have to work to get that opportunity," Heim said.
"Let's go out there and win our first game, and see what we have after that," Baar said.
A win would pit Hoxie against either Solomon (8-1) or Greensburg-Kiowa County (6-3).
Ness City takes on Minneola
The unbeaten Eagles (9-0) have not been touched this season. Ness City leads all of eight-man and is third regardless of classification with just 48 points given up all season. Today, though, could provide a stern test with 8-1 Minneola coming to Ness City for the first round.
Minneola brings a potent offense that has averaged 52 points per game, but lost 48-30 to Hodgeman Co.
It's no secret what the Wildcats try to do. Senior running back Matt McClaren leads the state with 2,033 rushing yards (10.17 per carry) and 37 touchdowns, also a state best. Ness City's 50.5 points average has been fueled dynamic running duo of seniors Garrett Flax and Dalton Gantz, who combine for 1,670 rushing yards and 28 TDs.
Today's winner will take on the winner between St. John-Hudson (8-1) and Pretty Prairie (7-2).