High School Sports

Playoff rematches populate Class 5A football bracket

The Eisenhower Tigers and coach Marc Marinelli, center, have already faced Friday’s playoff opponent, Andover, before.
The Eisenhower Tigers and coach Marc Marinelli, center, have already faced Friday’s playoff opponent, Andover, before. The Wichita Eagle

When Eisenhower football coach Marc Marinelli watched his team’s 34-31 victory over Andover on Oct. 14 on video, he saw a lot of things that Eisenhower did for the first time just to be able to edge Andover.

After the Class 5A playoffs were finalized last week, Marinelli found out Eisenhower will have to find a way to duplicate that effort to advance, as the Tigers (3-5) were the No. 10 seed and will travel to No. 7 Andover (5-3) on Friday in a rematch.

“It terrifies me,” Marinelli said. “It’s definitely a lot harder to beat a team twice than it is to come back and play a team that’s already beat you. I think it’s going to be a pretty interesting matchup.”

Marinelli isn’t the only 5A coach having to worry about a rematch this week. There are five matchups in the western half of the 5A bracket that have already been played this season.

Besides the Andover-Eisenhower game, the matchups weren’t particularly close the first time around. Valley Center beat Newton 21-0 on Sept. 23, Goddard beat Salina South 42-7 and Maize beat Arkansas City 56-33 on Sept. 30, and Bishop Carroll beat Kapaun Mount Carmel 25-3 last Friday.

But that scares coaches like Maize’s Gary Guzman, who is leery of a rematch from a game his team won by 23 points the first time around. He worries that it is difficult for high school kids to focus as intensely on the matchup if it is one they already know they have won before.

“I’m just worried that our team mindset isn’t going to be right just because we’ve beat this team already one time and they start looking ahead, instead of showing up and playing the game,” Guzman said. “That’s my concern with having that prior success. You just hope you prepare your team well enough and they understand that this is a whole new ballgame and you have to throw out the last result. It just makes me nervous.”

The positive is that coaches already have video of their team against the opponent. It is assumed that new wrinkles will be thrown in for the second meeting, but coaches and players have a feel for what the other team is capable of after going up against them on the field.

Arkansas City coach Braden Smith knows this is true after playing Maize running back Dalyn Johnson, who has rushed for 1,237 yards and scored 27 touchdowns this season.

“Our kids knew who he was last time, but I don’t think we fully understood his skill set and what made him so special,” Smith said. “Now we feel like we at least have an understanding. Whether or not we can stop a kid like him, I don’t know. He’s a big-time weapon, but you certainly feel better about your chances after playing them once.”

For the teams that lost, it ultimately is a chance to redeem themselves in the game that matters.

They suffered through the defeat the first time, but now are motivated to win given another opportunity and that’s something that Andover coach Tony Crough has stressed with his team this week.

“We feel like we had our chances last time against Eisenhower, but ultimately we couldn’t stop them and their run game was just too much for us,” Crough said. “I’ve really challenged our defense and the kids this week to not let that happen again. So they’re excited for Friday night and another chance to prove themselves.”

Taylor Eldridge: 316-268-6270, @vkeldridge