For Jacob Mezera, it’s easy to pinpoint the team that’s become Fort Hays State’s biggest rival over the last few years.
Matchups against Pittsburg State tend to bring out the most intensity and emotion in both teams, the FHSU senior quarterback said.
“I told the guys, this is like the Alabama-Auburn game,” Mezera said. “It’s like the Iron Bowl. It’s going to be really insane. This is going to be the hardest game for sure.”
The Tigers (4-2) will play host to the Gorillas at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lewis Field Stadium, aiming to stay in the hunt for an MIAA title.
No. 18 Pitt State enters 5-1, looking to bounce back from a 31-7 home loss to Northwest Missouri last week. The loss snapped an 11-game winning streak for the Gorillas.
“They’re a lot better than last year,” Mezera said. “I hope everyone is on the same page and understands that we’ve got to play really good. … It’s a dogfight. You’re going to scratch and claw and bleed everywhere. It’s going to be fun. I hope everybody’s looking forward to that because that’s how the game’s going to be.”
FHSU senior defensive lineman Wyatt Parker agreed that the Gorillas have become the Tigers’ top rival.
“Pitt State, that’s my favorite game of the year every single year,” Parker said. “It’s physical, it’s a lot of trash talk. It’s just fun. That’s why you play the game, for game’s like this.”
Pitt State’s defense has been its strength this year, allowing just 16.5 points and 283 yards per game.
“They’re going to play a lot of man coverage and you’ve got to win the one-on-one battle,” said FHSU coach Chris Brown, a former All-American safety at Pittsburg State. “The quarterback has got to put the ball in the right spot and we’ve got to be able to run the ball in the red zone as well to really get those safeties to bite down and keep our receivers open.
“It’s going to be a struggle, because they’re great on defense."
Pittsburg State starting quarterback John Roderique has played in all six games but has continued to battle injuries, leading to three different quarterbacks seeing time this year. B.J. Bradbury has seen action in five games while Matt Harman has played in three.
“Pitt State’s a heavy run team. They’re going to try and control the clock and keep your offense off the field,” Brown said. “Roderique’s a strong, very powerful runner. These other quarterbacks maybe aren’t as powerful but might be a little bit shiftier. Even without Roderique, these guys at the quarterback position have won ballgames. They’re going to get more confidence as they play.”
Pitt State’s Tyler Adkins leads the Gorillas with 512 yards on the ground, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Lorenzo West is the Gorillas’ top receiver with 25 receptions for 426 yards and three touchdowns.