Bobcats enter as underdogs against Tonganoxie
On paper, Friday's game against Tonganoxie should be the toughest one on the schedule for the Basehor-Linwood High School football team. The Bobcats are 1-4 on the season and 0-4 in the Kaw Valley League, while Tonganoxie sits at 5-0, with five league wins.
Not only are the Chieftains undefeated, their games haven't been close. They've won 37-14, 34-17, 42-7, 28-7 and 42-6. Throw in the fact that the game is at Tonganoxie, and the match-up goes from David vs. Goliath to David vs. Godzilla. Still, BLHS coach Steve Hopkins says no one should count his squad out.
"Any team can win or lose on any night in high school football," Hopkins said. "We will continue to work hard and we will prepare."
To have any shot against the Chieftains, the Bobcats will likely have to win the turnover battle. In their only victory they created three turnovers and didn't commit any and in their four losses the Bobcats have given the ball away 12 times. That means details like making good snaps and wrapping up the ball in traffic could loom large.
"We must take care of the little things, because little things that go wrong can result in big plays for the other team," Hopkins said.
Hopkins said the play of his defense lately has given him reason for optimism heading into Friday's game. Against Clinton and Lansing the unit was dominant, racking up 21 tackles for loss in two weeks. But the defense may face its toughest test of the season this week, tougher even than Mill Valley and Justin Woods.
In recent years the Tonganoxie offense has relied heavily on a power running game, but this year it has augmented that with a solid passing attack. Senior quarterback Jeff Hughes is one of the league's best dual-threat players, a star who can beat a defense with his arm or his legs. Last week, against Santa Fe Trail, Hughes ran for 171 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 131 yards and two touchdowns.
Basehor-Linwood's freshman quarterback, Brandon Leppke, has shown some of the same dual-threat potential this year, running for 57 yards and throwing for 70 against Clinton. But he struggled with his accuracy last week against Lansing, going 1-10 passing.
"As a freshman he's going to have his ups and downs and his mechanics were off," Hopkins said. "He is maturing and did some better things mentally, but his throws were not as good."
Hopkins also emphasized that his team would have to run the ball better to set up the pass and help out the young quarterback.
That means better work by the offensive line, which is struggling a bit with injuries right now. Andrew Stueckemann suffered a dislocated jaw last week and Chad Whitlow is nursing a nagging ankle injury. Those are two of the Bobcats' more mobile linemen, which could make pulling and trapping more difficult. Hopkins said both would have to be evaluated throughout the week to determine if they'd be able to play against Tonganoxie.