Wildcats have state trip in mind
By KLINT SPILLER
Sharon Springs-Wallace County High School football coach Kevin Ayers admitted his team is far from the biggest, but what the Wildcats sacrifice in size, they make up for in aggressiveness and discipline.
Those qualities have played a significant role in the reason why Wallace County (10-0) leads eight-man football in Kansas in points allowed, giving up 5.6 points per game.
"It's a group that when you look out there, there aren't any big glaring all-stars," Ayers said. "It's a defensive unit that plays exceptionally well together."
Wallace County will travel Saturday to Kensington-Thunder Ridge for the Eight-Man Division II sub-state championship game. Game time is 4 p.m.
The winner will earn a berth in the state championship game Nov. 17 at Newton.
For the Wildcats, this would have additional meaning, because though Ayers has gone to the playoffs every year he's coached Wallace County, the Wildcats haven't been past the first round since 2007 when they won the state title.
The past two years, Wallace County has been bounced from the playoffs by Thunder Ridge, but Ayers said those losses won't be necessary to provide his team with motivation for Saturday.
"At this stage of the game, when it's the sub-state game ... everybody wants it," Ayers said. "Both teams are going to be highly motivated."
Wallace County runs a 3-2 defense but has thrown in a stack defense in recent weeks.
Senior linebacker Lane Perry, who leads his team with 7.1 tackles per game, said communication is important on defense since every player must execute his assignment.
"We work together great," Perry said. "Defensively, there is always a lot of chatter with us. We always seem to be able to communicate and get to where we need to be."
Wallace County isn't physically imposing. Only four players on the Wildcats' 22-man roster weigh 180 pounds or more, according to maxpreps.com.
Ayers said the key to their success has been their experience
"We've got a lot of kids that have been coached in the fundamentals of this defense since they were freshmen, so they've done the drills for four years," Ayers said. "... They play aggressive, play very disciplined, and that's allowed us to do good things defensively."
Wallace County has allowed more than one touchdown in a game just twice this season, and both happened in the first three weeks of the season, giving up 20 on the road at Dighton and 12 at Triplains-Brewster.
Ayers said their defensive numbers might be even more impressive if Wallace County left its defensive starters in the game throughout blowouts, as several of the touchdowns were scored against the reserves.
However, Ayers and Perry agreed Thunder Ridge likely will present the toughest challenge to their defense they've seen all season. The Longhorns have the second-best scoring offense in Eight-Man Division II, posting 50.4 points per game.
Ayers said Thunder Ridge is big and senior fullback Trevor Lowe runs hard.
"I'd say these guys are probably the best team offensively we are going to play so far just because they are bigger than us," Perry said. "But we've always looked at that as a challenge for us."