3A playoffs - Panthers face defending champs
By AUSTIN COLBERT
The Scott City and Phillipsburg High School football teams have a very different history.
The Beavers have been to the state playoffs 19 times including this season, and hold a 39-14 record in those playoffs after Tuesday's 43-0 win over Lakin in their Class 3A playoff opener. Scott City has won four state titles, three of which came between 1988 and 1991. The most recent state title came a season ago, when the Beavers went 14-0 and defeated mighty Silver Lake 28-21 in the title game.
On the other hand, Phillipsburg has only been to the playoffs eight times and holds a 6-7 record after Tuesday's opening-round win over Sacred Heart. The Panthers have never won a state title or even played for one. Their best run came in 2004 when they made it to the round of eight, according to preppowerindex.com.
But when the teams meet at 3 p.m. Saturday in Phillipsburg for a Class 3A second-round playoff game, the Panthers are hoping to write a new history for their rising program.
"To knock off a defending state champ and be able to continue through the playoffs would be big for us," Phillipsburg coach J.B. Covington said. "They will be a really good opponent with a lot of tradition and a lot of pride in what they are doing. We will have to play well in order to win it."
Phillipsburg has played well in most games this season en route to its 9-1 record. The Panthers only loss came to the hands of Beloit, the No. 1-ranked team in Class 3A in the statewide media poll, 48-27 on Oct. 18.
The most impressive stat for the Panthers is their 6-0 record on the road this season, including their 27-20 win at Sacred Heart on Tuesday. The Panthers gave up a 56-yard TD run on the Knights' first possession before dominating the rest of the half.
The second half wasn't as strong for Phillipsburg, but the defense overcame a sluggish offense to hold on for the win.
"Offensively we put some nice drives together but we just didn't get it in the end zone," Covington said. "They scored a couple of times on us and it turned into a tight ball game. The final drive we drove the ball down and pretty much consumed the clock."
As strong as the Panthers have been on the road this season, they are looking forward to playing a home game for only the fifth time this season on Saturday. The Panthers have played three consecutive road games since the home loss to Beloit in mid-October, and four of their last five have been on the road. Add on top of that the fact Phillipsburg has played the third toughest schedule in Class 3A, according to preppowerindex.com, and it's almost surprising the Panthers are in the position they are.
"It's been a while since we played a home game -- we are pretty excited to get back home," Covington said. "We've played a tough road schedule this year. Our kids understand it's important to win homes games, but it's also important to win the road games."
Scott City enters Saturday's contest with an identical 9-1 record, its lone loss coming 25-6 at Class 4A Ulysses on Sept. 27. The Beavers are ranked No. 5 in Class 3A in the statewide media poll and have outscored opponents 323 to 99 this season. But with the 23rd-ranked schedule in the classification, Scott City hasn't seen the same level of competition Phillipsburg has on a weekly basis.
But none of this matters to a Phillipsburg team looking to do something only one other team in program history has done -- make it to the state quarterfinals. Until a new team is crowned, Scott City is still the reigning state champion and the Panthers know chances like this are few and far between.
"It's an opportunity to go knock a state champion out of the playoffs," Covington said. "Their skill players are good, but I think we can expose them a little bit at the line. Defensively they are a 4-4 team, which we see quite a bit. I don't think it will be anything big for us to adjust defensively. We just got to go execute. ... Although we would like to go deep into the playoffs, we are more worried about this one game right now and taking one step at a time."