Thursday, October 15, 2009

Conway Springs-Garden Plain preview: Game of the century? Probably not.

By Tracy McCue
GateHouse News Service
Thu Oct 15, 2009, 02:52 PM CDT

Wellington, Kan. - Conway Springs head football coach Matt Biehler made an interesting comment.

"Oh, it's another game on the schedule," he said of the upcoming home game with Garden Plain.

Friday night's district opener between No. 1 rated Conway Springs and No. 2 Garden Plain is anything but "another game on the schedule," and he knows it.

But if one looks at this rivalry from a long-term perspective over the past decade, this game really isn’t that much different than the Conway Springs vs. Garden Plain games of years’ past.

It seems it doesn’t matter when these two teams play, it is "always" a big game. It's has almost become a cliche.

There are plenty of high school rivalries across the Kansas landscape. But rarely is there one where both teams are this good this close together.

"I can only think of one, Rossville and Silver Lake," Biehler said.

The history bears no repeating. Both have won the last two state championships, and have resulted in ending each other's long winning streaks during this decade.

The kids know each other, marry girls from the opposing towns, have family get togethers with one another. And on that one given Friday, perhaps twice, they want to bash each other's brains in.

And as always, it's hard to distinguish just who might be a favorite going into this game.

Little has separated the two as far as the schedule and statistics are concerned. No other Central Plains League team has been able to challenge the twin towers for years — with the exception of the 2008 season opener when Cheney upset Conway Springs.

Again this is the district opener and both teams are 6-0. No other Central Plains League opponent has come within 20 points of these two in 2009.

Both schools have big kids and lots of depth. They all are well entrenched with how they do things.

As always, statistically, both teams are running roughshod over people.

The Owls, in particular, are averaging 53 points per game and has allowed just 42 points this season.

They run a variety of backs with Seth Klausmeyer, getting the bulk of the carries. He has rushed for 600 yards so far this year. Against Wichita Trinity, he sprinted for 202 yards on 18 carries.

Quarterback-wise Garden Plain is led by Thomas Bugner, who has passed for 768 yards this season and 11 touchdowns. He averages 130.7 points per game.

"He is a good big-sized quarterback and has the ability to make the big plays," Biehler said. “The key is to contain him.

Biehler said the game will be won on the line. The team that has the advantage in the trenches should win this game.

For Garden Plain, that means stopping Conway Springs’ misdirection in the single wing.

The last time these two met, Garden Plain didn’t come close.

In the state semifinals, Conway Springs avenged an earlier 21-7 loss to Garden Plain, with a 45-25 throttling. Conway Springs ran for big yards — 464 of them to be exact — and five different backs rushed for good yardage. It was a blowout of mammoth proportions.

For two programs that had little separating them, there was plenty of separation that night.

It's been a streaky series.

Conway Springs dominated Garden Plain with ­nine straight wins dating back to 1998.

But in 2005, there was a shift that saw Garden Plain win five straight.

Last November in the playoffs, Conway Springs broke the streak.

But is Friday's game really that big between these two? After all Conway Springs lost the 2008 regular season game only to win the state championship more than a month later.

Of course it is. It always is. It's that darn town down the road thing, dang it.

But aside from all the statewide attention and the intense rivalry, at its core is a district loss. A loss makes things more difficult for the loser.

Last year, Conway Springs was thrown in a tougher playoff bracket than Garden Plain and ended up playing Wichita Collegiate, Beloit and others before getting back to the Owls.

Still the Cards got the last laugh.

"It's a fun game to play," Biehler said. "The kids are excited and there's a lot of buzz in the community.

"Throughout the season, the kids have really been good at focusing on one game at a time. But, preparing for this game, I must admit is always a lot more exciting."

Belle Plaine head football coach Brian Seba said the Dragons are looking forward to next season.

It was a joke, but there is some truth to it. The Dragons play, no doubt, the hardest district schedule in 3A.

The Dragons play Medicine Lodge which is 4-2 this Friday. Then it's Conway Springs and Garden Plain, No. 1 and 2 in the state.

Medicine Lodge may be the easiest team of the bunch.

"They have a new coach and like to run a spread offense, which is typical for young coaches under the age of 40," Seba said.

Belle Plaine just got off losing to Cheney 57-0.

"That was the first time this season where I felt we truly got beat," Seba said. "Usually we play really tough defense, but tend to make mental mistakes in certain situations and give up the big play.

Friday we were beat for all four quarters."

Tyler Jantz, the starting wide receiver, is expected to be out with a hip flexer. Four players have missed practice this week because of sickness. But are expected back by game time.

Wellington Daily News
113 W. Harvey
Wellington, KS 67152


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