Friday’s rivalry game between the Hays High School and Great Bend football teams might have a slightly different feel from years past.
For the first time in 14 years, Bo Black won’t be manning one of the sidelines. After 13 years of coaching the Panthers and spending last season in charge of the Indians, Black is on the opposite side of the state at Shawnee Mission Northwest.
Having previously coached at Oakley and Cimarron, new Hays High coach Randall Rath only has a vague idea of what to expect in Friday’s 7 p.m. kickoff at Lewis Field Stadium.
“I’m not real familiar with what they have, but I know they’re always pretty decent,” Rath said. “Watching them on film, they look real physical. They fly to the football.”
While the Indians also hope to control the game with a physical run offense, Rath noticed a stark difference between the two teams. While Hays High primarily will run with its quarterback under center, the Panthers will look to run the ball from a spread offense with a quarterback more than capable of keeping defenses off balance.
“They got a really good dual-threat quarterback,” Rath said. “We’ll have to be aware where he’s at on the field, our linebackers are going to have to tackle. They put you in some one-on-one situations.”
Great Bend’s Jacob Murray completed 10 of 20 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions and rushed 22 times for 108 yards and a score in the Panthers’ 19-17 Week 1 win over Leavenworth.
Rath is far from the only Indian getting his first taste of the rivalry. Most of his players will be on the field against Great Bend for the first time.
“I know they’ve probably been on the sidelines for it, but I don’t know that they’ve really been in the battle,” Rath said.
With the Panthers’ seemingly owning the advantage of experience, the Indians are looking to eliminate some mental errors from last week’s 23-9 loss to Olathe Northwest. The good news is Rath believes those issues are relatively easy to fix. One of those issues last week was blockers not sustaining effort throughout the duration of the play or missing assignments entirely.
“We had some opportunities that we were one block away from doing things right,” Rath said. “We would blow an assignment and just let someone come unaccounted for.”
The questions on the line became more pressing this week when the Hays High coaches found out they’ll likely be without left guard Freddy Haines for the foreseeable future due to a knee injury.
With an inexperienced roster and a tough schedule facing the Indians, they’ve decided to focus on the present.
“We try not to make anything bigger than today and what we can do because we can’t relive it and we’ve got to try to perfect it today,” Rath said. “Then tomorrow, try to do the same thing. I think our kids have really bought into that part.”
Great Bend will likely have revenge on the mind, as Hays High won last year’s contest by a decisive 49-6 tally.