Schools preparing for special week of football

LUKE PETERSON / lpeterson@leavenworthtimes.com
Leavenworth’s Ja’Hawn Byrd, 2, watches the ball he just punted sail in the air during the Pioneers’ season opener against De Soto on Aug. 31.

Friday night’s football action will be special all around. Two homecoming games, a rivalry matchup and playing in a college stadium are all on the docket.

The Leavenworth Pioneers will play the annual homecoming game at Pioneer Stadium on Friday. They will host the Lansing Lions to renew the rivalry.

The Pioneers are coming off of a rout over Turner last week to achieve their first win of the year.

Ja’Hawn Byrd led the team with six touchdowns and his performance gave him the HyVee Athlete of the Week honors.

Head coach Mark Littrell said it was exciting for Byrd and the team for him to receive the honor.

“We are excited for Ja’Hawn and the rest of the team,” Littrell said. “Any award that anyone receives is a team effort. Ja’Hawn knows this as well as the rest of the team.”

Littrell also said the team was excited after the big win, but practices continued as hard as before to get ready for the game.

With it being homecoming, Littrell was asked what makes the game so important.

“All games are important,” Littrell said “The fact that it is homecoming is even a little more exciting for the seniors.”

Littrell also has described the rivalry between the two teams as exciting and well played. In order for the Pioneers to win, Littrell said they will have to be sound on all three phases.

“We have to be very sound on both sides of the ball and on special teams,” Littrell said. “Lansing is really good up front both on offense and defense. We have to establish our run game and play assignment correct against their offense.”

The Lions are looking to bounce back after a 34-7 loss to De Soto. Head coach Dylan Brown said the biggest focus at practice this week is returning to fundamentals after the team had a variety of mental mistakes in the loss. Brown has said throughout the season that he does not feel like the team has been outmatched in the three losses. He feels like the team can finish the year strong if they continue to do what they are supposed to do.

With it being the rivalry game and Leavenworth’s homecoming, Brown sees it as something special.

“Mostly the proximity of the two schools (is what makes the rivalry special),” Brown said. “The two communities are so intertwined and there's a lot of crossover. The kids know each other outside of school, and many of them have known and competed with each other in youth sports. So there’s a long built familiarity between the kids, the schools and communities. It’s very similar to the rivalries between schools in the same district. Anytime you add homecoming to the mix, it adds a little extra spice. Every school wants to make sure that’s the one game they win that year, and the visiting team wants nothing more than to ruin the party. It’s no different here and only amplified by the rivalry.”

Brown said the key to winning Friday is the same key as every game – for the team to take care of themselves and do what they’re supposed to do with high effort.

The Leavenworth Times will be covering the game Friday. Follow our Twitter @LVTSportsGuy for updates.

Basehor-Linwood

The Basehor-Linwood Bobcats will also be celebrating their homecoming game Friday when they take on Turner.

The Bobcats are coming off of a 50-0 victory over Shawnee Heights, which head coach Rod Stallbaumer said was the team’s most complete game. Stallbaumer said it came from a continued focus to improve.

“Daily and weekly improvement is the challenge of every team,” Stallbaumer said. “We try to address that as a coaching staff by heavily scrutinizing our film to look for areas where we made mistakes and areas in need of improvement. We then work on those things weekly, along with improving and building muscle memory on daily fundamentals. We challenge our guys every year to be a mature football team, one that doesn’t have big highs and big lows throughout the season but is steady, focused, continually improving. I think for the most part we have done well at that so far but it is a weekly challenge.”

With the game being the homecoming matchup, Stallbaumer said that it can be something that will make memories.

“Homecoming game is always filled with a lot of events that can make the week memorable,” Stallbaumer said. “If they let it, those things can be distractions but if players are able to handle those things while maintaining focus on the game which is the cornerstone of the week then the extra build-up helps guys to remember the game a little more down the road. That’s the reason you want to have success in that game to make it a positive memory.”

Stallbaumer said that the team’s approach for consistency will help them not look past a struggling Turner team. He said that adjusting to the golden Bears’ multiple defensive fronts will be the key for the offense and winning the line of scrimmage against their strong linemen and running backs will be important.

Pleasant Ridge

The Pleasant Ridge Rams will return to Leavenworth County for a home game, but they will play off-campus at Berkel Memorial Stadium at the University of Saint Mary when they take on Nemaha Central. Head coach Pat McCollim said the team is excited to play on the turf field the college plays on.

“Our kids love playing at Saint Mary,” McCollim said. “The facilities are great and our kids grow up watching their program and really think it is cool to play there.”

The team has continued to work on fixing the issues of turnovers and other mental mistakes. McCollim said time during individual sessions have been spent working on ball security and the scout team has been instructed to try and create turnovers to help the Rams.

Protecting the football is the key to victory in McCollim’s eyes.

“This team is too good to be giving them extra possessions,” McCollim said. “We must also be very assignment sound on both sides of the ball to limit their scoring as well as put together sustained drives.”