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Defenses traditionally win football games. According to Coach Gary Griffin, the Louisburg Wildcats defense is the strength of his team after impressive wins in their 2-0 start of the 2009 season. That is not good news for Coach Tom Byers and his young DeSoto team.

DeSoto is playing with 13 new starters, seven on offense and six on defense. Any coach or fan knows that playing with 60% inexperienced starters, there is going to be a developing period to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their team. DeSoto's first loss to 5A Gardner would be no surprise, but not being competitive the second week against Eudora would be reason to be concerned about the quality of this year's squad.

The Louisburg Wildcats have looked strong defensively their first two games, they forced six turnovers and a blocked punt in the 49-7 blow out over Spring Hill last week. The 'Cats primary concern is the health of starting Junior quarterback Kody Cook, who suffered a knee injury in Louisburg's first game against Ottawa and may be out for the season.

However it is never a bad thing for a coach to have too much quality talent which appears to be the case for Louisburg at several positions. Senior backup quarterback Drew Harding managed the offense efficiently with the support of returning starting tailback Ryan Roberts, who scored three rushing touchdowns and a 90 yard kickoff return.

Expect the Wildcats to prevail as Coach Griffin's teams are known to be well prepared for each game.

When the Osawatomie Trojans take the field tonight against the visiting Iola Mustangs, they may very well be facing a team of . . . well . . . Mustangs!

According to Iola Head Coach Rick Horton, the Mustangs are young, talented, fast and explosive. They are aggressive and like to dictate the speed of the game. “I think the first week (an opening game loss 34-10 loss to Columbus) we looked like a very inexperienced team playing a very good football team,” Horton said. “In the second half we looked a lot better. Last week (45-0 over Central Heights) I think everything clicked for us. We scored on offense, defense and special teams.”

This may not bode well for the Trojans, who have not lacked for offense in the first two games, scoring 38 points against Anderson County, and 36 points at DeSoto, but the Osawatomie defense has given up 34 and 33 points respectively, and consequently have found themselves trailing through the games, but finding a way to win in the end.

So looking at this game from an offensive standpoint, there should be no reason to believe there won’t be points put on the board from both teams. The Mustangs rely on Junior running back Marcus Sullivan, a three year starter and Junior quarterback Charles Apt. “Marcus is running harder than ever,” Horton said. “Charles really started looking like a great quarterback last week.” In addition to Sullivan, Apt has two outstanding targets in Seth Walden a Senior tight end and Jerrik Sigg a Sophomore wide out who Horton says “catches everything and is a playmaker.” We would want the ball in any of these guys hands,” Horton continued. “They are all explosive in their own way.”

The Trojans are no slouch on the offensive side of the ball either, as they feature Jameson Greenwood who is averaging 228 yards per game on the ground. “Jameson is really running the ball well,” said Trojan Head Coach Clint Bailey. “He’s getting great yards after first contact, but it really goes back to the line creating holes.”

From the quarterback position, Seth Jones is averaging 128 yards per game passing, with his favorite target being Hunter Taylor who has eight catches on the season for 127 yards, a 15.88 yard per catch average. Brandon Oakes leads the team in yards per catch, with eight catches for 82 yards, a whopping 16.40 yards per catch.

With the offensive weapons he possesses, Horton believes his defense is the strong point so far this season, mentioning his defensive ends and linebackers as key players on the defensive side of the ball. “Senior ends Ethan and Aaron Fulton are doing a great job,” Horton said. “Our inside linebackers, seniors Chris Heffern and Kyler Thompson are both off to great starts, as are outside linebackers Seth Walden and Shane Snavely.” The Mustangs are proficient in causing turnovers with their defense, causing five fumbles and picking off three passes so far.

Linebacker is a strong point of the Trojan defense also as Brant Johnson and Derek Kueser are both coming of double digit tackle games against DeSoto. “Brant and Derek are our outside linebackers and they really flew to the ball,” Bailey said. “We are working hard on getting better on defense.” Hunter Taylor, Brandon Oakes, Andy French, Jedd Froggett and Ryan Warner all have double digit tackles so far this season and will anchor the Trojan defense. The Trojan defense has forced eleven turnovers on the season, nine fumbles and two interceptions.

On special teams for the Mustangs, Sullivan has a kick off return for a score and has over 170 return yards in last weeks game against Central Heights. The Mustangs also possess returning All-State 4-A kicker Conner Frazell who is off to a solid start.

For the Trojans, Oakes is averaging over 39 yards per return on three returns for the season, Greenwood and Allen Raymer are both averaging double digit yards per return this year.

So, this game looks to be a battle of proficient offenses with better than average defenses, which could prove to be a high scoring affair.

Coach Horton believes it will all come down to how well each team’s defense can control the playmakers on offense. “Defensively we must tackle well this week as this will be the best running back we will have played against,” Horton said. “Their quarterback throws a good ball and their wide receivers have speed. They are an explosive team and we’ll need to limit the explosive plays.” “Offensively, we need to limit the number of negative plays we have,” Horton continued. “Our line must do a good job blocking up front.”

These sentiments were echoed by Coach Bailey when assessing what his team needed to do to keep their unbeaten string alive. “Offensively, we must stop the blitz, they will send six on every play,” Baily said. “Defensively, we must put pressure on the quarterback and stop #22 (Sullivan).”

When the Paola Panthers and Gardner-Edgerton Trailblazers meet tonight at Gardner, it will be the end of an era, with the two teams meeting for the final time as members of the Frontier League. The Blazers will leave the league at the end of the school year to become members of the East Kansas League, ending around four decades of Panther and Trailblazer battles.

WLH0073 This game should be a good one too. Both teams are highly ranked in their respective classes, with Paola entering at number two in the state in Class 4-A and Gardner holding a similar ranking in Class 5-A. Both teams feature explosive offenses, with quality skill position players and stingy defenses who are not afraid to line up and smack the opposition around.

The Panthers, of course are lead by Junior running back Skyler Hawkins who is averaging nearly 200 yards per game rushing on the season. Hawkins opened the year with a 200+ yard, five touchdown game against Baldwin, and followed that effort with a 140+ yard effort against Ottawa. Quarterbacking the Panthers is Sophomore Seth Kern, who has shown signs of good things to come, as he flashes good running ability and a decent arm while running an offense which is very much geared to the ground game. Senior Ryan Schultz has shown the ability to gain the tough yards between the tackles and Senior Brint Hastert has proven to be a strong linebacker and a more than capable kicker.

Also on the defensive side of the ball Junior Anthony West is settling in well in the defensive backfield, he was responsible for two outstanding pass break-ups last week against Ottawa and was one of the main reasons the Cyclones were unable to cross the goal line after moving the ball deep in Panther territory several times.

The Trailblazers are lead by quarterback Bubba Starling who is doing just about everything for Gardner short of selling popcorn at halftime. The Blazers QB is rushing for 150 yards a game and has completed 14 of 19 passes on the season for 359 yards or nearly 180 yards per game through the air. The Trailblazers are by no means a one man show, as Starling has a stable full of supporting athletes which makes Gardner that much tougher to defend. Ryan Weber is the second leading rusher on the team with 13 carries for 181 yards and two touchdowns and Brett Johnson has 22 carries for 127 yards and two TD’s. Starling’s favorite targets on the season are Justice Berry with seven receptions for 210 yards and a score, and Alex Knorr with three catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, Gardner has six players with more than ten tackles on the season, Jeremy McLennan has been in on 18 stops on the season, with Allen Pheiffer and Kyle Wyatt each adding 17 tackles in their two games.

Even though this is the final time for the foreseeable future that the Panthers and Trailblazers will meet on the gridiron, Panthers Head Coach Mike Dumpert sees it as an opportunity to see just how far his team has come in the first two weeks of the season, and where they will need to go to make a run deep into the 4-A Playoffs.

“This might be the last time we play them, and it’s special,” Dumpert said following the Ottawa game last Friday. “We’re very aware that they are an outstanding football team, we will get to measure ourselves and see how we stand up. I’d say we’ll know a lot more about ourselves after next week’s game. We should be up for it,” he concluded. “We will have to play hard, smart and well to come out on top.”

State ranked foes to meet in Gardner

Mustangs come calling on Trojans

WLH0081

Wildcat battle

set in Louisburg

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