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Panthers bi-district foe is 8-1 Chanute

Now that the Paola Panthers have had a chance to dry out and wipe the mud and muck out of their helmets, they will turn their attention to the Chanute Blue Comets, in the Bi-District game in Chanute on Tuesday, November 3, 2009.

The Blue Comets and Panthers are no strangers to each other, as this matchup seems to happen every other year or so, either in Chanute or in Paola. This year’s edition will take place in Chanute, with the Panthers having to go on the road, after dropping a soggy and sloppy, but hard fought 14-0 decision to the Louisburg Wildcats last Thursday night.

WLH0188 The Blue Comets have certainly earned their stellar 8-1 record, and are riding a 7 game win streak. The Comets opened the season 1-1, after a victory over Columbus and a loss to Labette County, but since then, have not been defeated, and have had only two really close game, defeating Columbus by four points and Coffeyville Field Kindley by six. The Comets went 4-1 in the regular season against teams that have advanced as either District Champions or District Runners-up.

Chanute has defeated Columbus, Independence and Anderson County, all with 7-2 records, after that, Labette County and Field Kindley are the only other teams with winning records, both at 5-4 and both advancing to the Bi-District round of the Kansas State Class 4A Football playoffs. The remainder of the teams on the Comets schedule sport losing records, including, interestingly enough, Parsons (0-9), Pittsburg (4-5), Iola (3-6) and Fort Scott (1-8), all four of these teams have been perennial state playoff participants and all have faced the Panthers in the playoffs.

The Comets are a balanced team, averaging 450 yards per game in total offense, with 185 yards per game coming through the air and 265 coming on the ground. Chanute’s quarterbacks are 99 of 182 through the air for 1663 yards and 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. On the ground Chanute’s backs have carried 393 times for 2393 yards and 27 touchdowns and an average of just over six yards per carry. The Comets have a balanced rushing attach, with McComb leading the rushers with 853 yards on 110 carries and 11 touchdowns. Bollig is next with 613 yards on 158 carries and nine touchdowns, followed by Walls with 558 yards on 56 carries and five touchdowns. Walls is the Comets leading receiver with 679 yards on 39 catches and three scores, Haight is the second favorite target with 451 yards on 33 catches and four touchdowns.

Defensively, the Blue Comets have 32 quarterback sacks on the season, eleven interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries. They have blocked one punt and one field goal. As a team Chanute has returned 20 punts for 192 yards and 29 kick-offs for 504 yards. The team has scored 41 touchdowns and scored 288 total points, good for a 32 point per game average, defensively, the Comets have given up 157 points on the year, a 17.4 point per game average.

The Panthers will counter with their traditional rushing offense, featuring Skylar Hawkins, Tyler Henness, Ryan Schultz and Seth Kern. Hawkins is the Panthers leading rusher for the season with over 1,000 yards on the ground, Henness, Hawkins and Kern all have gone over the 100 yard rushing mark in a game this season. The Panthers have seen Hawkins and Henness top the century mark at least two times this season in the same game, and Hawkins has had at least two games over 200 yards on the ground.

Although they tried to show it last Thursday, the Panthers are not much of a passing team. Their bread and butter is on the ground. When the Panthers do throw it, quarterback Seth Kern’s favorite target is Brint Hastert. The Panthers are just not going to beat anyone through the air, and a muddy, wet and sloppy field like last Thursday night does not do Paola any favors. While the Panthers like to run the ball between the tackles, they are equally comfortable and most effective when they are able to break Hawkins on a seam and get him outside the hash marks and into the opposition secondary on the edge.

For the season, the Panthers stand at 6-3, with losses coming at the hands of District champions Louisburg and Eudora, and Class 5A super team, Gardner-Edgerton. The Panthers have scored 247 points on the season, averaging 27.4 points per game, and on defense, the Panthers have allowed just 119 points for a 13.2 point per game average. The Panthers have faced five teams which advanced to the Bi-District round of the playoffs, defeating DeSoto and Baldwin, and falling to Louisburg, Eudora and Gardner.

Wildcats to face 7-2 Anderson County

After finally playing in and winning a good football game, the Louisburg Wildcats will host Anderson County at Louisburg Tuesday night. The Cat’s are becoming more efficient and productive as the season progresses and that is how it should be for a District Champion. Quarterback Drew Harding is maturing in the position and had his best night in the win over Paola. If that maturation continues, it will make Louisburg’s football a formidable opponent for any team.

WLH0020 Equally, if not more important is Cat’s junior Tyler Ewy, who plays the game at a different level than everyone else. He has a big motor, doesn’t take a play off and dominates his opponent. As a defensive tackle he leads the team in tackles, which is rare, and I would bet he’s at or near the top in sacks and quarterback rushes if those statistics are kept. He may be one of the best defensive lineman the Wildcats have ever had and he has another season to improve.

Louisburg has three running backs averaging six yards or better per carry. One is a sophomore, Garrett Griffin. Griffin plays significantly above his grade and the Cats are better when he is in the game. At 5’6” and 145lbs, senior running back Ryan Roberts’ six yards per carry and ten touchdowns are remarkable. He is a tough as they come and his presence is demonstrated on both the kickoff and kickoff return teams.

Chris Cook will draw attention with his last two catches, one against Osawatomie at the end of the first half and the other Tuesday night against Paola, which was an important field position changer. With improved consistency, his kicking talent is solid and if he improves his speed, he could play beyond high school, if he so desires.

The Bulldogs come into the game with a good, 7-2 record, including a 2-1 district record. Anderson County plays in the Pioneer League, and the Wildcats have already feasted on two Pioneer League foes, defeating Osawatomie and Prairie View by a combined score of 104-14. The Bulldogs two losses this year were at the hands of Osawatomie, a 38-34 season opening loss at Osawatomie, and a 53-21 shellacking at the hands of district champion Chanute in the opening game of districts. The ‘Dogs two district wins were against Fort Scott and Iola who combined for a 4-14 record on the year. Anderson County played two other 4A schools on the season, going 2-0 against Santa Fe Trail and Prairie View which combined for one win and 17 losses on the season. The Bulldogs defeated Class 3A bi-district qualifiers Jayhawk Linn and Central Heights, but the Jayhawks won only two games on the season, and Central Heights picked up just four. On the season, the Bulldogs have played (and lost to) two teams with winning records, and a combined total of 15-3. Conversely, the Bulldogs seven wins have come against seven teams with a combined record of 15-48; none of those seven teams have a winning record.

Anderson County comes into this game facing the same dilemma as fellow Pioneer League foes Osawatomie and Prairie View did when preparing to play the ‘Cats. Their competition does not prepare them for the speed and impact of the Louisburg football team, or other state level qualifier. That does not imply they won’t put up a fight, which they should, but competing against a good Louisburg football team will be difficult. The Wildcats must mentally stay focused and play a technically sound football game Tuesday night, on both sides of the ball. If they do, they will prevail and be prepared to step up to who may be next!

 

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