Playoff positioning on line for all local teams
It’s time to either show up or say hasta la vista to any playoff possibilities for the Pleasant Ridge Rams’ football team.
Following last week’s lopsided defeat at Maur-Hill Mount Academy, the Rams (2-5, 0-1) will need to win the final two games of the regular and Class 3A District 2 season against two beatable opponents to make the state playoffs once again.
That task begins Friday when the Rams play host to the Atchison County Tigers (0-7, 0-1) before wrapping things up in Easton against Maranatha next week.
Atchison County comes into the game having given up 40 or more points in five of seven games, including last week’s 40-28 loss to Maranatha. Atchison County is riding a 17-game losing streak dating back to week nine in 2015.
With the importance of this game in mind, the Rams and Tigers are the focus for the Leavenworth Times’ Game of the Week.
A year ago, Pleasant Ridge rolled to a 52-14 win over the Tigers in Atchison.
“ACCHS is a much improved team from a year ago,” Pleasant Ridge coach Pat McCollim said. “They are fundamentally sound and play a lot of very good teams tough. I would argue they have one of the toughest schedules in 3A so I don't think you can read much into their record. We just need to stay focused on being disciplined and protecting the football to be successful.
“We must win this game to keep our season alive and earn at least one more game for our seniors. The team takes that very seriously and has had a strong week of practice to prepare. We just have to play to our potential for the next two weeks and have fun doing it.”
The young Rams will have to find a way to get over last week’s foibles.
“Last week we played very poorly with six fumbles and an interception, and we gave up way too many big plays,” McCollim said. “We have regrouped this week and practiced well. I am proud of how the boys have responded and I believe we have a strong chance to win the next two and make the playoffs.”
Leavenworth (3-4) at Olathe East (3-4), 7 p.m. at College Boulevard Activities Center
The Pioneers blew a golden opportunity to move into a top six or seven spot in the Class 5A East seedings when they fell 21-14 to a 1-5 Olathe South team at home on senior night.
Now, seeded 11th, Leavenworth faces a 5A district playoff game on the road a week from now unless it can come up big against Olathe East on Friday.
The Pioneers can’t finish lower than 14th and even with a loss, could still finish 11th if the teams below them win, but that will depend on power points.
A win, combined with a number of losses above the Pioneers, could push them up to seventh if all the breaks come their way.
“Olathe East is another tough Sunflower League opponent,” Leavenworth coach Mark Littrell said of the game that will mark the final game for the Pioneers in the Sunflower League. “They too are a physical team that went toe to toe with Lawrence Free State last week.
“We need to get to 4-4 for the season so that we can have a chance at a decent seed for the district game. I would like to see our players play another physical game and eliminate mistakes.”
Despite the loss to South, Littrell was pleased with the Pioneers.
“Last week was by far one of the best games that we have played this season,” Littrell said. “I asked the players to play as physical as our opponent, and we did that. We still had too many missed assignments in all three phases of the game. We threw the ball better, but we still need to establish our inside run game.”
Lansing (2-5) at Bonner Springs (3-4), 7 p.m.
This one has plenty of intrigue.
The Lions of Lansing are seeded 12th in the Class 5A East standings and have a chance to make a big move this weekend when they play the Braves, seeded eighth heading into the final week of the regular season.
Last week’s 35-13 win over Turner has helped the Lions put themselves in position to get a prime playoff position.
“Last week our football team was pleased with their win,” Lansing head coach John McCall said. “The team competed and played hard through a few errors in the first half, going in at half up 14-13. They responded well to halftime adjustments and played very well in the second half.”
Bonner Springs ended Lansing’s season with back-to-back crushing defeats a year ago.
“This week’s opponent is balanced on offense with their inside zone and passing attack,” McCall said. “In their previous games, they have created explosive plays through the air. Our defense is excited for Friday’s challenge. They use a seven-man front on defense and incorporate several pressure packages. Our players have focused on controlling the box both in the run and pass game.”
Bonner Springs’ signature moment was a rousing 33-21 win at Basehor-Linwood three weeks ago. But Bonner Springs enters this contest with two straight losses.
Now the jockeying for 5A prime real estate is set.
“For the 5A schools, this game is the last vital key to playoff seeding,” McCall said. “Any team can either move up or down due to Friday’s results. Teams will be eagerly tracking results on KSHSAA to determine seed and opponent for week nine. As soon as seeding is official, teams will begin exchanging film and preparing for week nine.
“Our team has focused on finding any way to win and move up. The critical plays can come from any phase. One of our team’s greatest strengths is making adjustments, so they are aware that Friday will be competitive and exciting.”
Atchison (4-3) at Basehor-Linwood (6-1), 7 p.m.
A desperate Atchison team will invade Basehor-Linwood to take on the Bobcats, who aim to nail down a Class 4A-I state playoff spot with a win on senior night.
BLHS enters the contest after recording a fifth shutout of the season in a 33-0 Class 4A-I District 2 opener last week.
Atchison fell 49-0 to Tonganoxie so a loss ends its hopes for a playoff.
“Atchison is 4-3 and they have a really nice backfield,” Basehor-Linwood coach Rod Stallbaumer said. “They are a run-first team, running both power, option and misdirection with two really talented running backs. They are always well coached and fundamentally sound. They have had very few turnovers on the season so they don't beat themselves. They have good size and speed in the backfield. Defensively, they have some really quick defensive lineman that get penetration and some fast linebackers and are assignment sound. We will need to execute well offensively.”
They did all of that last week as the Bobcats seemed to find their rhythm after two weeks of mediocre play by their standards.
“It’s always important to get a win in district play and I think we played our best game in several weeks,” Stallbaumer said. “There are still some things that we need to clean up but I think we are getting a lot closer to where we need to be at this time of year. I felt like the offensive line set the tone early, we were able to establish the run and the defense played very disciplined, aggressive football.”
It’s all about getting ready for another playoff run.
“It is important in district play to continue to win and improve each week,” Stallbaumer said. “This time of year, teams that continue to improve each week are the ones that advance. Districts are essentially a four-team playoff so we must continue to win to advance.
“We still need to be more consistent in our execution offensively. We've made nice strides but we still have too many self-inflicted mistakes that hurt drives.”