Archive for Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bobcats prepping for high-energy clash

August 31, 2006

A brand new field, a coach on the hot seat, and three straight losses to avenge. The Bonner Springs High School football team will have plenty of motivation when its rivals from Basehor-Linwood come to town for the season opener on Friday. BLHS head coach Steve Hopkins knows this, and has been doing his best to help his players understand just how much intensity the Braves are likely to bring.

"I told the kids that the first few collisions in the Bonner game will probably be the most violent they've ever seen up close," Hopkins said.

A large contingent of Braves players and coaches showed up to scout at the Bobcats' intrasquad scrimmage last Thursday, proving just how seriously they're taking the season opener, and it's no wonder. It will be the first game on the new turf at refurbished David Jaynes Field and a contest the Braves might have to win to reach the five victory mark, which is rumored to be a requirement for Lew Kasselman to keep the head coaching job.

Add to that the fact that none of the current Braves have ever beaten the Bobcats, and there's likely to be some revved up kids from Bonner Springs on the field. That may lead to some serious collisions, but Hopkins is also worried about the handful of Braves who have a serious ability to avoid collisions. That list starts with all-league running back Tyler Jock, but doesn't end there.

"From what we saw last year, Tyler was the key to their running game and teams would gameplan around stopping him," Hopkins said. "This year, L.T. Lee is the quarterback and that adds a whole new dimension. He's a dual-threat guy who can beat you throwing or running."

The Bobcat defense, led by senior linebacker Kevin Marshall, will have its work cut out for it Friday. The key to stopping the Braves' offense might be the play of the Bobcats' large and experienced defensive line. If lineman like Ethan Douglas, Chad Whitlow, Swede Johnson and Austin Hunter can penetrate the line of scrimmage consistently they may be able to stop Bonner's speedsters before they get started. Otherwise the Bobcats' linebackers and secondary might be in for a lot of chasing.

The Braves who were on hand for last week's scrimmage got a first-hand look at Basehor-Linwood's imposing lineman dominating on both sides of the ball. They raked through the second team defenders for huge gains on the ground and stuffed nearly every play by the second team offense at or behind the line of scrimmage.

A display like that is unlikely against the BSHS first-teamers, of course, but it may have given them something to think about. It doesn't matter how psyched up the Braves are, there's not too many of them who will be eager to take on players like Douglas, a 6-foot-6, 273-pound giant who spent part of the offseason baling hay on the family farm.

Getting an early look at Douglas might not be too productive for the Braves, but seeing the plays and formations the Bobcats used last Thursday could be. Bonner Springs didn't put on a similar scrimmage this year, but, in a gesture of sportsmanship, Kasselman invited the BLHS coaching staff to watch a practice at Bonner Springs. Hopkins called the invitation "a very gentlemanly move."

"I'm sure we showed them more than we intended and I'm sure they showed us more than they intended," he added. "But, in all honesty, it's still going to come down to who blocks better and who tackles better."

In addition to the drama brought forth by the match-up Friday's game will be memorable because of the new turf. Bonner Springs athletic director Garold Baker said everyone from the players to the coaches are pumped up about playing on the new surface.

"I know they're all real excited to play on the new field," Baker said. "People have been talking about this game for weeks. Everyone's excited, it should be a good match up and we're really looking forward to it. We're just extremely appreciative of the community for allowing us the opportunity to play on such a nice field."

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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