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Prep preview '13 -- Buffs have state playoffs in mind

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Atwood-Rawlins County High School football coach Deone Horinek isn't expecting to get as much exercise this season -- or as many cuts and bruises for that matter.

"Last year there was not a day where myself and my assistant coach Mike Lankas did not have to practice," Horinek said. "I practiced every day with the kids running scout team. Now we have practice squads that we can coach."

With a roster of 30 kids heading into the season -- including every player from last year's 7-2 team --  the coaches are more than happy to let the players do the playing at practice this year.

Rawlins County is entering its second season playing eight-man, having seen numbers drop during the past 10 years. The Buffaloes were an 11-man powerhouse for years, winning state titles in 1989, 1990 and 1991.

After seasons of 5-5 and 4-5, Horinek's Buffaloes broke through with seven wins last year and enter 2013 looking to improve on that mark with a trip to the postseason in mind.

"Our goal is a run deep into the playoffs," Horinek said. "It's a huge goal. (The players) are not overlooking anybody. They think they can have a great year but at the same time they know that at any time a team can sneak up if you're not ready."

Atwood was the team that did most of the sneaking last season, surprising many with its 7-0 start before losses to eventual state champion Ness City and Hoxie in the final two games.

And none was more surprised than Horinek, who had literally no eight-man experience before last season.

"The first game we played in was the first game I had actually ever seen eight-man. I really didn't know what to expect," Horinek said. "The big transition for me as an offensive coach was the hash marks. Plays from the hash to the boundary --  there are a lot of plays you just can't run because they take too long to develop."

Despite the smaller field and quicker tempo of eight-man, Horinek found out that he didn't have to completely overhaul his system. While small changes were necessary, the basic scheme remained the same from the team's 11-man days, helping ease the transition into eight-man.

"We put an 11-man mentality on. We didn't allow the big transition to take full effect. We wanted to run smash-mouth football," Horinek said. "I know for a fact that had we tried to re-invent our scheme and everything we had done, that it would have taken us a lot longer to transition to it. The learning curve was a lot shorter."

Now the Buffaloes are hoping for no learning curve at all with every member of last year's team returning, the addition of a whole new crop of freshmen helping to fill out the roster.

Senior Dylan Tiemeyer will once again play quarterback and defensive back for the team, while fellow senior Michael Capo is expected to be the workhorse at running back. Capo led the team in all-purpose yards last year with 110.1 yards per game. He was also fourth on the team in tackles with 70.

"You can tell that with Michael you have a different excitement than I've seen. He is very upbeat and excited about football and you can tell through the way he practices," Horinek said. "But I got three or four kids I could say the exact same thing about."

The Buffaloes will start play at Wheatland-Grinnell, a team they beat 40-14 to open last season.