La Crosse set to tangle with Meade
By CONOR NICHOLL
La Crosse High School football coach Jon Webster expects three of his top players, senior running back/linebacker Levi Morss, senior fullback/linebacker Kip Keeley and sophomore lineman/kicker Sheldon Schmidt, to be healthy for Friday's Class 2-1A sub-state championship game at Meade.
In last week's 20-8 second-round victory versus Oakley, Schmidt didn't play because of a hip injury, Keeley went down multiple times because of cramps and Morss' ankle, an injury that bothered him earlier in the season, hurt again late in the contest.
La Crosse, 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class 2-1A in the statewide media poll, will face second-ranked Meade (10-1) for the third consecutive year in the playoffs. The two teams are longtime state powerhouses and have played each other for years.
Meade won the state championship two seasons ago and La Crosse was state runner-up last year.
"For the most part, that's the game that we kind of end our season or springs us," Webster said. "We play each other so often, and they are always such important games that they can't help but mean a little bit more than other games and that adds to the rivalry and intensity of preparing for them and the game itself. It just makes it a very special game."
In Webster's four-year tenure as head coach, the Leopards lost the first two games against Meade before enjoying a 21-12 victory in the second round of the playoffs last year. It gave La Crosse a rare trip into the sub-state championship. La Crosse contained Meade to zero second-half points, one of the best halves the Leopards have played under Webster.
"It was good to win the big game," Webster said. "We have gotten to that round of the playoffs multiple times in the last 10 years or so, and it was nice to get over the hump. But it was one of those things, we were not satisfied with just getting to sub-state. We wanted to be in Hays on Thanksgiving weekend (for state)."
A win for La Crosse would give the Leopards a chance for redemption after the difficult 20-14 overtime loss to Centralia in the state title game last year.
"This is it," Morss said. ".... I go back to last year. I still have nightmares about last year. That was bad. It hurts to talk about it still."
The two coaches have great respect for each team's programs. Webster calls Meade coach Scott Moshier "a class act," and one of the top people in high school football. Moshier, 69-12 at Meade, has long run a single-wing offense. This season, the squad averages 360 rushing yards a contest.
Three players have at least 730 yards, led by 1,426 rushing yards from senior running back Trevin Wiens. Senior quarterback Chris Hardaway has completed 57 of 89 passes for 1,022 yards with a 17/3 TD/INT ratio. Meade lost to Holcomb by one point in the first game of the season and has dropped a contest since.
"There a lot of rivalries that are just regular season matchups," Webster said. "But very few rivalries can have the implications that us and Meade have year in and year out."
For La Crosse, Morss has collected 1,531 rushing yards and 17 scores, while Keeley has 943 rushing yards, 468 receiving yards and 20 offensive TDs. Keeley (84 stops) and Schmidt (68) rank 1-2 on the team in tackles, and Schmidt has seven sacks. Keeley stopped taking his creatine and his supplements, some of the significant reasons for the cramping.
"I think he has probably ate more bananas than he cares to," Webster said. "It's kind of funny, we have people from all over the community (saying) their remedies for cramps. A couple guys have told us a shot of mustard under the tongue."
Schmidt suffered an injury in the first round of the playoffs and hasn't played since. If he can't go, senior Derrick Depperschmidt will step in for the second straight contest.
"Sheldon is battling through it," Webster said. "He is going to try to give it a whirl. There is still some discomfort and some pain, but he is a tough kid and we expect him to go out there and play his butt off."
Morss hurt his ankle late and missed just a few plays, but wasn't 100 percent by the end of the game.
"With Levi, I think it was more fear than anything else last week with his ankle," Webster said. "He took a shot and it kind of hurt. ... After he figured out his ankle was fine, he was regular Levi. He has had a really good week of practice."