This is supposed to be the game. Yep, Smith Center is supposed to lose to visiting Meade in tonight's Class 2-1A quarterfinal game and see its 77-game winning streak end.
Commenters on discussion boards and on the Varsity Kansas blog have predicted it because Meade is undefeated! Meade has 315-pound lineman Trevin Pfannenstiel! Meade has outscored teams 505-104!
Smith Center isn't what it used to be! Smith Center will struggle to stop Meade's single-wing offense! Smith Center barely beat Norton, Phillipsburg and Ellis!
I shrug my shoulders at such predictions. Certainly, Smith Center could lose.
Meade has three backs rushing for 530 or more yards. Quarterback Dakota Benear has 851 passing yards.
But really, I've heard these predictions of Smith Center losing for so long now, they're irrelevant. That's what happens when a team wins five straight 2-1A titles and 77 consecutive games, the longest active 11-man streak in the country.
Smith Center coach Roger Barta merely chuckled when asked about expectations of the streak ending.
"Everyone thinks we'll get beat," he said. "It's been another fun year. We've matured and developed. It's another year, another process."
Barta pointed out that Meade is a big team, that coach Scott Moshier has done a great job building the program and that the single-wing is tough to duplicate in practice.
Smith Center, which beat Meade 60-14 in the 2008 playoffs, has talent, too.
Colt Rogers leads the Redmen with 1,427 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, while teammate Matt Atwood has 883 rushing yards and 15 scores. Aaron McNary has 558 rushing yards, and Dereck McNary has only played in three games and has eight carries, but he has four touchdowns and a 32.3-yard average.
Smith Center has three shutouts and outscored teams 418-79, but there was a rough stretch. After opening the season with two 59-0 victories, Smith Center struggled against Norton, Phillipsburg, Ellis and Colby.
Smith Center had to hold on to beat Norton 20-14, Phillipsburg 14-12, Ellis 16-10 and Colby 24-12.
"We're pretty young," Barta said. "We've had to grow and we've had to mature and develop. I think we've played some pretty good competition, and some are still in the playoffs. We went through a period with Norton, Phillipsburg, Ellis and Colby where we had four really good games to mature. They were tests."
All four of those opponents advanced to the playoffs, with Norton (8-3) still alive in 3A and Ellis (9-2) in 2-1A.
But the closeness of those regular games started the chatter that the streak was about to end. I heard it weekly on the blog, in e-mails, at work.
Was the nation's longest active winning streak on the verge of ending? Will it end this week?
Smith Center went through a similar questioning in 2008. The Redmen's 2008 season, when they set the state's win streak record, was chronicled in a book, "Our Boys," by Joe Drape.
He moved with his wife and young son to Smith Center, and involved himself in the community and with the team.
"He's a great personality; he just became one of us," Barta said of Drape. "He wasn't pushy, he wasn't in the way. But he really helped the kids. He cares about kids, too. He has some experiences that he shared. He got close to the kids, really close to the kids."
Barta read the book and enjoyed it.
"There were a couple things I wish weren't in there, but everything is true," he said. "I don't think anybody should be offended or upset."
Drape has returned to Smith Center several times. He still calls and e-mails.
"He had some genuine friendships develop here," Barta said.