Salina Central running back Cale Sharp runs the ball in the first quarter of a football game against Campus on Friday, Sept. 17, 2010 at Salina Stadium. (photo by Jeff Cooper/ Salina Journal)
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Back in the saddle
By LARRY MORITZ Salina Journal

You don’t walk into Gowans Stadium lacking in confidence and expect to walk out with a win against perennial power Hutchinson.

Salina Central had its confidence shaken only two weeks ago when the Mustangs lost a game in an unlikely fashion. The 7-6 defeat at the hands of Andover Central marked the first time in 24 years Salina Central lost a game when it held an opponent to less than 10 points.

But Mustang coach Mike Hall believes his team is back where it needs to be both physically and mentally, coming off a 56-20 victory over Campus last week to raise its record to 2-1 heading into today’s 7 p.m. showdown with No. 1-ranked Hutchinson.

“I think we just executed better in our offense and did a good job getting off the ball with our line,” Hall said of the win over Campus. “All of our backs ran hard.

“More importantly, we gained some confidence back. The loss shook our confidence a little bit but after last week, I think we’re back in the right frame of mind and know what we want to do.”

What the Mustangs want and need to do is slow down the Salthawks, something they have been unable to achieve in their four-game losing streak to Hutchinson dating back to 2006. The Salthawks have scored 55 points or more in all four of those games, including last year’s 63-21 victory at Gowans Stadium.

From Hall’s perspective, the key is playing four full quarters. The second quarter has been the Mustangs’ downfall the last two meetings, when Central was outscored by Hutchinson 23-0 in 2008 and 28-7 last year.

“Maintaining a consistent level of play throughout the game will be important,” Hall said. “In years past, we’ve started pretty well, and then the second quarter has been awfully rough on us. We need to start on top and maintain momentum throughout the game.”

Hutchinson is 2-1 but has 23 consecutive victories against Kansas opponents dating back to the 2008 season. The Salthawks fell 29-28 in overtime to Rockhurst (Mo.) in the season opener but have been their typical dominant selves the past two weeks in victories over Derby (42-14) and Newton (70-14). Hutchinson scored on it first six possessions last week against the Railers.

“They will be very good,” Hall said. “They still do the same things with their defensive and offensive schemes. They have good skill position players and as it is against every option team, our defensive players have their responsibilities.

“They can be in the right spot, but they still have to make the play. Depending on the ability level of the player carrying the ball, making the tackle may be easier said than done.”

Both Hutchinson and Central are 2-0 against Ark Valley Chisholm Trail Division I opponents, and the winner of tonight’s game gets a leg up in the race for the 2010 league title.

“We were sure hoping to be 3-0 going into this game, but even after Week 2, we felt we made progress in several areas,” Hall said. “We’ve made improvements each week, and that is ultimately what we are after, so we can be playing our best in Weeks 7, 8 and 9.”

Newton at Salina South

After back-to-back road losses to state-ranked opponents, Salina South is glad to be back at Salina Stadium for today’s 7 p.m. contest against Newton. The Railers, like South, come into tonight’s game with a 1-2 record.

The Cougars never led in their losses to McPherson and Junction City the past two weeks, facing early deficits from which they never completely recovered. South was able to move the ball last week against the Blue Jays and recorded 15 first downs but could not sustain drives and put points on the board.

Newton has struggled on the defensive end, allowing 144 points in its first three games. That includes 70 points last week in a loss to state-ranked Hutchinson. The Railers’ lone victory was a 49-40 final against Andover.

South looks to remain unbeaten against AVCTL Division I opponents. The Cougars are 1-0 in league play while Newton comes in at 0-2. The Railers moved up from Division II for the first time this season.

This will be the first meeting between the teams since 2005. South won nine consecutive games over Newton between 1998 and 2005, including a playoff victory over the Railers in 2004.

Sacred Heart at Republic County

It’s only the fourth week of the season but already Sacred Heart will play it’s North Central Activities Association finale tonight when the Knights face Republic County. Game time is 7 p.m. at Belleville.

The Knights are hoping to reach the .500 mark against league opponents, dropping to 1-2 overall and 1-2 in the NCAA after last week’s 60-7 loss to Beloit. Sacred Heart will not face Russell or Ellsworth in league play this season, and its last five regular season games will be nonleague contests, including four district games.

Republic County (0-3, 0-1) has scored only a single touchdown in each of its first three games this season, but that has been enough to keep the Buffaloes close the past two weeks. They led Southeast of Saline until the fourth quarter of last week’s contest and fell to Valley Heights a week earlier, 12-7.

Both teams were winless when they meet in Week 5 of the 2009 season, a game Sacred Heart won 52-0. The Knights are 6-0 against Republic County (formerly Belleville) since joining the NCAA in 2004.

Southeast of Saline at Ellsworth

The records show Southeast of Saline and Ellsworth are on opposite ends of the North Central Activities Association standings. The Trojans, who got a scare from winless Republic County a week ago, will take nothing for granted against another winless team when they face the Bearcats in a 7 p.m. contest today in Ellsworth.

Southeast (3-0 overall, 3-0 NCAA) didn’t take the lead until the fourth quarter of last week’s 21-7 victory. The final margin of victory was still the largest in the Trojans three wins this season.

Ellsworth (0-3, 0-2) is coming off a 23-7 loss to Russell last week. Russell is the one common opponent Southeast and Ellsworth have this season, with the Trojans downing the Broncos 18-14 in the season opener.

The Trojans would like to spread out their offensive production. Junior running back Brock Long has seven of the team’s 10 touchdowns this season. No other Southeast player has more than one.

Southeast defeated Ellsworth 57-6 a year ago and has won seven of the last eight meetings.

Ell-Saline at Sedgwick

Ell-Saline is looking for something good to happen and hopes it starts with tonight’s Heart of America League contest against Sedgwick. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Sedgwick.

The Cardinals are coming off back-to-back lopsided losses to unbeaten 3A opponents Hutchinson Trinity and Remington. Ell-Saline (1-2 overall, 1-2 HOA) has been outscored 83-0 in the first half alone in those two contests.

Sedgwick (2-1, 2-0) could provide another difficult test. After a five-point loss to Hoisington in the season opener, Sedgwick has followed with a 48-0 victory over Bennington and a 56-7 win against Moundridge.

The Cardinals defeated Sedgwick 40-20 a year ago, but that isn’t necessarily an indication of good things to come. They defeated Remington by that same 40-20 score in 2009 but lost to the Broncos by 50 points last week.

Salina Central linebacker Cade True makes contact with Lavonte Jefferson of Campus in the first half of a football game on Friday, Sept. 17, 2010 at Salina Stadium. (photo by Jeff Cooper/ Salina Journal)

Additional SES Stories:
State cross country rankings
County sports: Saturday’s events at-a-glance
Back in the saddle
Near-sweep for Lincoln siblings

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