While much was made of Iola High’s week 7 visit to Chanute — perhaps the last game ever between the two rivals — another long-time foe awaits Friday evening.
With the Mustangs now firmly entrenched in the Pioneer League, and Class 4A sending Iola High and Fort Scott High into different Class 4A divisions next season, this rivalry also may be coming to an end. The teams will not play each other in football in 2014 or 2015.
That gives Iola one last shot to measure up against a regional gridiron power.
“I told the guys when I got here last season that Fort Scott is the type of program we want to be,” Mustang head coach Doug Kerr said.
Fort Scott’s program is replete with quick and powerful athletes, but it’s what’s between the ears that sets the Tigers apart from other schools.
“Fundamentally, that program is off the charts,” he said. “Every player knows his job, and doesn’t try to do too much.”
In order to conquer Fort Scott, Iola must deal with the Tigers vaunted veer option offense.
“They’re not the biggest, most athletic team, but they do everything the right way,” Kerr said. “You better be assignment sound.”
Barring an upset in the other district game — Chanute is heavily favored against winless Anderson County — Iola’s last shot at qualifying for the postseason is Friday.
The Mustangs bring a 4-3 record overall and an 0-1 mark in Class 4A, District 6 play. Fort Scott (4-3 overall and 1-0 in districts) can clinch a playoff berth with a win.
If Chanute also wins against Anderson County, a loss to Fort Scott eliminates Iola from playoff contention.
The Tigers understand the importance of Friday’s contest, head coach Bob Campbell said.
“Iola has some good athletes, and it returns a lot of starting experience,” Campbell said. “They’re a dangerous team.”
The Tigers contended with a brutal early season schedule against the likes of Coffeyville, Pittsburg and Columbus, which led to an early three-game losing streak.
Not so coincidentally, the Tigers were bitten by the injury bug about that same time. They lost starting quarterback Zach Denton in the week 2 loss to Columbus, while several other standouts, such as starting linebacker Jacob Durossette, have been hobbled through the year. Durossette is just now rounding into form after an early-season ankle injury.
“With Jacob, we just hope he gets a little healthier and healthier each week,” Campbell said.
Like Iola, Fort Scott’s players must be assignment-sound in order to contend with the Mustangs’ pre-snap shifts, Campbell said..
“They’re able to run or throw out of several formations, so it’s something we need to stay on top of,” Campbell said. “Offensively, it’s vital we control the line of scrimmage.”
Fort Scott’s early injuries gave the Tigers an ancillary benefit.
“We’ve had to build up depth in our backfield, and we have a number of runners we can turn to,” Campbell said. “They all bring different attributes to the table.”
The Tigers sport six runners who have rushed for at least 100 yards for the season, averaging more than 6 yards per attempt. Leading the way is senior Race Kastl, who has 489 yards on the ground and five touchdowns.
Junior Mason Knopp has stepped in nicely at quarterback. He was a perfect 5-for-5 in Fort Scott’s 48-6 win over Anderson County last week with two touchdowns and 77 yards. He’s also rushed for three touchdowns.
When Iola has the ball, the Mustangs must be successful on third down, Kerr noted, against Fort Scott’s 4-3 defense
“Our players understand the significance of this game,” Campbell said. “Iola did some things against us last year that we need to prepare for. They’re a well-coached, athletic team.”
Iola High Mustangs
QB — 10 Tyler McIntosh, Sr.
WB — 6 Adam Kauth, Sr.
HB — 24 John Whitworth, Sr.
FB — 34 Shane Walden, Jr.
TE — 2 Jesse Zimmerman, Sr.
OL — 62 Quinton Morrison, Sr.
OL — 56 Alex Bauer, Jr.
OL — 70 Ethan Sigg, So.
OL — 52 Colton Heffern, Jr.
OL — 50 Derrick Weir.
WR — 5 Trent Latta, Sr.
PK — 15 Isaias Macias, Sr.
DL — 87 Bryce Misenhelter, Sr.
DL — 32 Shawn Frye, Jr.
DL — 54 Eric Maxwell, Sr.
OLB — 21 Brice Aiello, So..
OLB — 6 Adam Kauth, Sr.
ILB — 34 Shane Walden, Jr.
ILB — 12 Kaden Macha, Jr.
ILB — 21 Brice Aiello, So.
CB — 22 Alex Kelly, Jr.
CB— 1 Cody Conner, Sr.
FS — 3 Jacob Rhoads, Sr.
P — 12 Kaden Macha, Jr.
Fort Scott High Tigers
QB —2 Mason Knopp, Jr.
RB — 21 Race Kastl, Sr.
RB — 36 Carter Young, So.
WR — 13 Jash Pytlowany, Sr.
WR — 24 John Hughes, Sr.
TE — 82 Chris Allen, Sr.
OL — 56 Grant Hill, Sr.
OL — 65 Garin Sinn, Sr.
OL — 67 Dane Ramsey, Sr.
OL — 71 Hayes Howser, Sr.
OL — 73 Brendon Blackburn, Sr.
DL — 56 Grant Hill, Sr.
DL — 65 Garin Sinn, Sr.
DL — 73 Brendon Blackburn, Sr.
DL — 77 Jacob Cross, Jr.
LB — 11 Chase Brown, Jr.
LB — 19 Alex Fink, Jr.
LB — 21 Race Kastl, Sr.
LB — 40 Jacob Durossette, Sr.
DB — 4 Brendyn Quinney, Jr.
DB — 13 Jash Pytlowany, Sr.
DB — 24 John Hughes, Sr.
To reach Richard Luken email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @rlukenregister.