After a 41-35 loss to Salina South, now the state’s top-ranked team, Derby football coach Brandon Clark has focused on fundamentals.
“We’re working on a ton of fundamentals, tackling fundamentals, blocking fundamentals, doing all the little things we didn’t do,” Clark said. “We talked to the kids after we watched film forever on Saturday. It was a combination of a bunch of things that happened in that game. We told our kids that we trust them that they’re a much better team.”
Derby has the players, and there is a renewed sense of focus for Class 6A’s third-ranked team as it heads into Friday’s game against Andover Central at Andover District Stadium.
Derby’s defense, for example, has been running cross-field sprints after practice. On their own. The defense was worn down as Salina South ran 35 of the game’s first 40 offensive plays. So Derby has simplified its plans.
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Derby’s defense will have to stop Andover Central’s skill players, who opened with a six touchdowns against Valley Center. Lucas Milner had 119 rushing yards, Blake Meier was 9-of-10 passing for 214 yards and Ryan Banwart had 102 receiving.
Offensively, Clark is counting on quarterback Jeremy Dunham to run an even cleaner game — he had 100 passing yards, 30 rushing, while running back Tyler West had 149 rushing yards.
Andover Central’s 49-7 win at Valley Center was important for the Jaguars, which beat Valley Center 25-19 in 2012.
“Our kids were very focused for a first game,” Andover Central coach Tom Audley said. “Generally there are a lot of jitters, screw-ups in execution, but we have a lot of kids back and we didn’t get caught up in the normal stuff that goes on in the first part of the season.”
Audley wants a balanced attack because too many times in 2012, the Jaguars had to pass to get a first down, even on third and short.
“We passed out of necessity last year,” Audley said. “We’re not quite there running the football yet, but I think we’re headed in the direction that we can be balanced.”
Injury adjustments — On Heights junior running back Curtis Whitten’s third play of the Falcons’ season opener last week, he suffered a knee injury. He has a Grade 2 injury to his medial collateral ligament and is out for 4 to 6 weeks, depending on rehab, Heights coach Terry Harrison said.
Harrison is confident there won’t be a gaping hole with Whitten’s absence.
“We won’t make any adjustments,” Harrison said. “Curtis is a great player. I believe him to be a Division I-type running back. But I believe in the kids coming behind him. We had a senior (Alan Garrett) step in and play really well against Carroll. We have young kids in our program.
“We won’t approach anything differently. We will do what we do. It’s what has been done for the last five years, and it’s proven to be successful.”
• Maize South sophomore quarterback Korie Frausto injured his left wrist on his non-throwing hand in the second half of the Mavericks’ opener against Arkansas City, dislocating and breaking both bones. He is expected to return for district play.
“Losing an athlete of his ability, we’ll need to make some adjustments,” Maize South coach Brent Pfeifer said. “Thankfully we have Chase (Bell) at quarterback, and it’s fantastic that we have him. We lose some depth at quarterback and both have ability outside (at receiver).”
Maize slowing it down — Maize coach Gary Guzman’s goal since he was hired in 2011 has been to speed up the offense. The Eagles use a combination of hand signals and plays written on dry-erase boards to relay the plays.
The speedy system is so successful that the Eagles often are waiting at the line of scrimmage for the official to set down the football. But the system comes with consequences, namely the defense spends more time on the field.
In the Sept. 6 win over Newton, Maize’s offense ran 31 plays while the defense was on the field for 68. Part of that was due to Elijah West’s 78-yard punt return for a touchdown, Connor Lungwitz hitting Kendall Stewart for a 79-yard scoring pass on a series first play and Chase White running 65 yards to score on the first play of the second half.
“We were scoring right away,” Guzman said. “I don’t think the (defensive) coaches were finished talking to (the defense) yet. It’s a nice thing, but you do have to give your defense a break. We need to see if we can slow it down.”
Maize (1-0) plays host to Salina South (1-0) Friday and knows its defense must be at full strength to slow an offense that can pound defenses. Running back Mike Jones had 207 rushing yards on 27 carries in the Cougars’ win over Derby last week.
“We have to play better defensively,” Guzman said. “We have to be disciplined on defense.”