It's Abilene- Chapman week. The game Friday at Chapman is not only the final North Central Kansas League game of the season for both teams it is also the first game in district play.
Abilene head coach Jeff Geist and Chapman coach Trevor Williams have mutual respect for each other’s programs and their game plans are essentially the same.
“Facing Abilene is a lot different than most teams in the league,” Chapman coach Williams said. “We knew going against Concordia we geared our defense to shut down their run game, that’s all they were going to do was run the ball.
“Abilene is a very balanced team. They have a solid running game and a very good passing game. When it comes to defense for us obviously we want to try to not allow the big play on the pass or the run, that is always key.”
Williams has concerns about the play of either Cowboy quarterback, Chase Stalder or Harley Hazlett.
“They both can run and the big pass play has been there for them all season,” Williams said.
“Chapman has really good backs in seniors Robert Walsh and Logan Lexow.” Geist said. “They are probably the best tandem in our league. Concordia would have given them a close race if they were healthy, but they lost one of their backs early in the year and he hasn’t been back. Chapman probably ranks up their right now with their backs.”
Williams compared Abilene to Wamego in their diversity on offense.
“They’re a more difficult team,” Williams said. “They spread you out more and they use those athletes, similar to what Wamego does and we struggled with them because of them being athletic and fast, so it’s going to be a challenge defensively for us.”
“Chapman played well against Concordia and they are getting healthy,” Geist said. “Obviously stopping their run game is going to be key for us. Their lineman do a nice job of getting off the ball, their backs run hard and if we don’t stay disciplined they will expose a lot of things. We’ve got to do a good job of what we’ve been teaching and practicing.”
“Their biggest play has been the quick pitch or toss play to Walsh,” Geist said, “They are using it a lot and being pretty effective. Walsh is especially dangerous on the edge.”
“Defensively we are going to put numbers in the box and go them and see what happens,” Geist said.
District games begin
“I look at this week, because of district play, that we are all 0 to 0, it’s a new season,” Geist said. “We talked to the kids last week about finishing the year 4-0 and we are 1-0 after the Marysville game and it doesn’t get any easier as we go. Starting with Chapman Friday, then McPherson and ending with Smoky Valley, who are both ranked right now. It is going to be more and more difficult as we go.”
“League games are huge,” Williams said. “Everybody wants to compete in the league and do the best they can. Now these games even have more incentive as we all try to gear towards the last three games in district play.
“It’s a whole different season now. We’ve had six games, important games building our way up to these last three district games.
“This is where it really begins. Hopefully, you are playing at your best right now. It is important and I am sure that both teams and both staffs feel they have to get off on the right foot in these district games.”
Junior Cowboy quarterback Stalder returned last week against Marysville after missing three games to injury. He and sophomore Hazlett have played a one-two punch for the Cowboy offense from the quarterback position.
Stalder has completed 25 of 50 passes for 482 yards and two touchdowns and Hazlett has connected on 60 of 111 attempts for 1,045 yards and nine scores.
Both have been equally effective in the run game as well for the Cowboys.
“My leg felt good most of the time,” Stalder said. “I guess I did alright, but our team did really good against Marysville. The offensive line was really impressive creating big holes, lots of things opened up for us to run or throw. I think as a team we really did good.”
When asked about playing Chapman Stalder said, “Show up to play. It is Chapman, they always show up to play Abilene and they are better than their record shows, definitely. We show up to play and I think we’ll be OK.”
Abilene takes its 3-3 overall record and 3-1 NCKL record to Chapman to meet the Irish who are 2-4 and 1-3 in league play.
Week 6 results:
Abilene 42 – Marysville 7
Chapman 27 – Concordia 21
Wamego 42 – Clay Center 0
Smoky Valley 56 – Lyons 28
McPherson 51 – Mulvane 28
Week 7 schedule:
Abilene at Chapman
Colby at Concordia
Smoky Valley at McPherson
Wamego at Holton
Marysville at Rock Creek
Goodland at Clay Center