Turnovers plagued the Heights football team early this season. The Falcons have rebounded by finding their offensive rhythm and holding on to the ball.
The Falcons started the season 1-3 with a minus-5 turnover ratio, but have won five of their last six games, including a current four-game win streak, and are plus-11 in turnovers since.
Heights hopes to continue that success tonight at Manhattan in a Class 6A quarterfinal.
"Creating turnovers always has an impact at every level of football," Heights coach Rick Wheeler said. You can survive one or two turnovers in a game, but you can't survive a handful. It really puts the defense in a bind."
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Another improvement has been the performance of Heights' running backs, especially Dreamius Smith. Smith has rushed for more than 100 yards in five of the last six games. Heights has rushed for more than 700 yards as a team the last two games.
"Our backs have always been highly skilled," Wheeler said. "The biggest improvement in our running game is the backs blocking. Those backs have to block for one another for us to have a productive run game."
Showdown — Pretty Prairie lost six starters from its 2008 team, losses that can decimate an eight-man program.
"We thought the key (this season) was the young kids," Pretty Prairie coach C.T. Young said. "They've done well."
Pretty Prairie (11-0) has won its two 8-Man Division I playoff games by a combined 88-8 score. Pretty Prairie plays at Baileyville (11-0) at 7 tonight in the semifinals.
Pretty Prairie starts two freshmen, and its top two players are juniors. Running back Daniel Krehbiel has 27 touchdowns and about 1,600 rushing yards, while quarterback Hunter Pittman has 23 touchdowns and about 1,200 passing yards.
"Offensively we've done a pretty good job," Young said. "Defense has been better than I thought it would be."
As well as Pretty Prairie has played, though, Baileyville has dominated opponents. Baileyville, the 8-Man I defending champ with a 24-game winning streak, has six shutouts.
The Falcons have outscored opponents 573-64 but have given up 36 points in two playoff games. Baileyville's closest game was a 28-14 regular-season win over Hanover, which is in the 8-Man II semis.
"We need to keep the ball away from them," Young said. "They score a lot of points, so we need to run some clock and score at the end of those drives."
Home away from home _ For some teams, a three-hour bus ride before a playoff game could be a distraction, but not for Dodge City.
The Demons have traveled to the Wichita area three times already this season, so tonight's trip is nothing new, coach Justin Burke said.
Derby hosts Dodge City in the Class 6A quarterfinals.
"It feels normal. Anything less than three hours is a short trip," Burke said. "I think the kids get more excited about the pregame meal."
Dodge City has owned Wichita-area teams this season. In five games against area schools, the Demons are 5-0.
"There aren't a lot of schools for us to play out here, so that's where we have to go," Burke said.
We are the champions — Sunrise Christian won its first Kansas Christian Athletic Association football championship last Saturday when it beat defending champion St. Mary's Academy 48-0.
Sunrise (11-0) lost in the 2008 and 2003 championship games to St. Mary's.
"It's the first one for our school, so we're really proud of it," coach Trey Hall said. "It's a culmination for this season. One of our goals was to get better weekly. We played them earlier in the year and beat them 32-14, so that's a perfect example of getting better week in and week out."
Andrew Westerfield finished with 1,322 rushing yards and 1,435 passing, while Matt Fager had 891 receiving yards in the 8-Man game.
Instead, the game will be at 3 p.m. at Collegiate.