Bobcats, Pirates battle for playoff spot
The 2006 season has come down to one game for the Basehor-Linwood High School football team. The Bobcats have not won a league game and are coming off their worst loss of the season, a 55-6 trouncing at Bishop Ward. But a win over Piper on Thursday night can erase all that and put them in the state playoffs.
Both Piper and BLHS lost to Ward in district play, but, thanks to forfeits by St. James Academy, both are 1-1 in districts. After Thursday's game one will be 2-1 and join Ward in the playoffs. The other will be 1-2 and done for the year.
Thursday's game will also be senior night for Kevin Marshall, Ben Adams, Nick Davis and Chad Whitlow. With that, and the "must-win" implications, it will probably be an emotional game. Keeping that emotion going with a good first quarter will be important, according to BLHS coach Steve Hopkins.
"The way the game starts often determines which team keeps its emotions helping them positively," Hopkins said. "We need to play well in the opening minutes in all three phases -- offense, defense and special teams. If we do that, the other matters, such as senior night and the opportunity to make the playoffs, only add to the fun."
The Bobcats will have to come up with a much better effort than what they put forth against Ward, but reinforcements are on the way. Tight end/defensive end Jacob Schierbaum practiced this week and has been cleared to play Thursday after straining his neck three weeks ago. Running back Bruce Tyner was also back in practice this week after getting stitches removed from a cut on his hand.
Barring any practice injuries, the Bobcats should be healthier than they've been in weeks on Thursday. They'll probably need solid contributions from everybody against a Piper squad that's 3-4, but has impressive victories against Bonner Springs, 35-20, and previously unbeaten Perry-Lecompton, 24-14.
In recent years Piper's offense has excelled mostly because of the arm of former quarterback Scott Lipovac. This year the Pirates are breaking in a sophomore QB and lost star receiver Nate Daniels to a broken leg, so they are relying more on the run. That has led to some big games from tailback E.J. James, including a ridiculous 311-yard performance against Bonner.
"Their entire offensive line are all seniors with good size, so running the ball makes sense," Hopkins said. "They also don't have to play three of their offensive linemen on defense, so that group is usually well-rested when they take the field."
Hopkins said his team would first focus on stopping the run, as usual, before worrying about the passing game.
After being solid most of the season, the defense showed little fight against Ward last week. But with defensive starters Adams, Marshall and Davis all playing in their last home game, the unit should be plenty fired up.
On the offensive side of the ball, Whitlow was part of a line that did some fairly impressive run blocking against Ward. Running behind him and the other linemen, Chandler Schaake became the first BLHS back to go over 100 yards this year, getting 104. Running the ball will be key against Piper, as the Bobcats look to keep Piper's offense off the field and take some pressure off freshman quarterback Brandon Leppke.