Smith Center will be looking to add another chapter to its storied football history on Saturday in Hays.
If the Redmen can maintain the trajectory they’ve been on the last couple weeks, they will like their chances at notching the program’s 10th state title, facing Olpe at 1 p.m. in the Class 1A state championship game at Fort Hays State’s Lewis Field Stadium.
Smith Center (11-1), last year’s Class 2-1A champ, dominated Sedgwick 61-27 in the sectional round two weeks ago before cruising past Plainville 49-7 in sub-state last week.
“We’re practicing well and obviously we’ve played a couple good games here in a row,” Redmen coach Darren Sasse said. “This is the time of year you want to try to play your best football.”
“I feel like we’re really hitting our stride at this moment,” Smith Center senior running back/linebacker Hesston Maxwell said.
Smith Center will look to carry over the momentum from the Plainville rout, in which the Redmen forced four turnovers and scored two defensive touchdowns.
“Plainville’s a really good team,” Sasse said. “They’re an MCL school, and just real proud that an MCL school has represented the West side (in the title game) for four straight years. I think that prepares us right there.”
“I feel like we’re playing our best football and hopefully it carries into (the title game),” senior running back/defensive back Colby Benoit added.
Smith Center’s wishbone attack is led by Ethan Peterson and Benoit, with Peterson rushing for a team-high 1,184 yards while Benoit is adding 1,162 on the ground.
Olpe (12-0) is looking for its second state title in program history after capturing the 2-1A crown in 2014. The Eagles took a 14-0 win over Pittsburg Colgan in last week’s semifinal.
“Coach Schmidt has had a lot of success there and just runs a great program,” Sasse said. “I can expect that we’re going to have a heck of a game on our hands and we’re going to have to play well.”
The Eagles have marched through the playoffs without their top player, senior linebacker-tailback Blaine Hinrichs, who went down with a foot injury in a 28-6 win over Hillsboro that wrapped up a district title for Olpe.
“We talked right away when we lost him, we weren’t going to replace him with one or two kids,” Schmidt told The Topeka Capital-Journal. “It was going to take everybody, a group effort to step up their game. I think the kids have done that and responded.”
The Redmen will return to Lewis Field for the title game for the second straight year after earning the Class 2-1A crown last year against Colgan.
“We travel a long way for a lot of games, but to have that game closer definitely is a nice thing,” Sasse said.
“It’s a big deal for us, especially because it’s so close,” Maxwell said. “It’s just so exciting to be there and be close so everybody can come give support.”