Writing off Smith Center has been a popular activity this fall. After all, Smith Center's state-record 79-game winning streak ended in the 2009 Class 2-1A title.
And Smith Center moved up to Class 3A, one of the toughest classes across the board in the western part of the state.
And, gasp! Smith Center lost two games during the regular season.
"I know it's an old cliche, but we play one game at a time," said coach Roger Barta, whose team plays host to Conway Springs (11-0) in the Class 3A quarterfinals on Saturday."... We can't live in the future or in the past. We try to live one day at a time and get better each day. The scores take care of themselves."
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Smith Center (9-2), which beat undefeated Scott City in the second round of the playoffs, lost to a talented Norton team. But Barta was disappointed with the loss to Phillipsburg.
"You can't win them all all the time," he said. "Sometimes there are people that are better than you."
Smith Center has four running backs with more than 500 yards, with Truitt Kuhlmann's 898 leading the way. Kuhlmann also has five of Smith Center's 12 interceptions.
Offense on the rebound — The Bishop Carroll offense took its 21-14 loss to Hutchinson personally two weeks ago. It failed to score multiple times with favorable field position after turnovers, and lost a chance to establish itself as an elite team in Class 5A. Carroll, however, responded with a 49-14 win over Great Bend and looks to keep its offense in motion against McPherson tonight.
"After the Hutch game we were definitely disappointed. We caused seven turnovers and only capitalized on two of them," Carroll quarterback Tyler Nance said. "It motivated us, because if we really want to go to where our goals are — the state championship — we've got to buckle down and get to work."
Carroll's offense made use of running back Jalen Hernandez against Great Bend in spots, and moved running back Brandon Weber to the slot frequently to keep the defense off balance. Hernandez rushed for 73 yards on 11 carries. Carroll coach Alan Schuckman likes what that combination does for his team.
"It has given us another offensive weapon when we can move Jalen in the backfield and move Brandon back to receiver," Schuckman said. "Brandon was a first team all-conference receiver last year, and when we get to him in space he can make things happen."
A defensive question? —That Hutchinson only beat Salina Central by 13 points in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs could be cause for concern. Especially considering Hutchinson (9-1) beat the Mustangs 60-7 on Sept. 24.
"We played poorly on defense last week," said Hutchinson coach Randy Dreiling, whose team plays at Emporia in the quarterfinals tonight. "That's largely due to a couple injuries, but we didn't make many plays on defense. But you know what? It's hard to convince high school kids that when you beat a team 60-7, that it could be a game."
Hutchinson's main problem was allowing yards after contact.
"We don't normally give that up," Dreiling said. "That's an area that we have to work on."
Hutchinson has been so dominant in the past six seasons, as the Salthawks rolled to six straight championships, including five in Class 5A. But this season it's been a different story.
Sure, they beat teams by an average of 49.1-11.0 during the regular season, but there's been issues with turnovers.
Against Bishop Carroll in the regular season finale, Hutchinson had seven turnovers. That frustrates Dreiling.
"Ben (Heeney) rushes for 300 yards or whatever (against Salina Central), and all I can think of his him fumbling," Dreiling said. "The fullback is supposed to get yards, but he's not supposed to fumble. You don't want to dwell on it, because the more you dwell on it, the more self-conscious you get.
"But it's something you have to address. It's the manner in which he's carrying the ball. And we found a solution to the handoffs, that weren't necessarily all his fault."
Defense prepares for ground attack — Hutchinson Trinity's only loss of the season came against a power rushing team in Garden Plain on Oct. 15. It will play a another run-first offense in Beloit today. Beloit uses single-wing and double-wing formations to pound the ball and control the clock.
"Their offense is based on being able to run the football. They are very physical," Hutch Trinity coach Sean Racette said. "Their passing game is all going to be off of play action so we're going to need all 11 players doing their job and making the right reads. We're going to have to tackle well."
The Celtics, led by quarterback Derek Racette (2,537 passing yards and 33 touchdowns), use a spread offense, which helped in the team's 26-8 win over Collegiate last week.
Sean Racette said if his team remains disciplined on defense and keeps its offense in tune then is team's confidence shouldn't waver in tonight's Class 3A quarterfinal game.