Winning the line of scrimmage — that one-yard patch between the offensive line and the defensive line — determines which team wins the game. That’s pretty simple.
Iola High’s Mustangs and Columbus High’s Titans are both staking claim to that space. Which team prevails?
Kickoff for the Southeast Kansas League contest Friday is 7 p.m. at Riverside Park’s football stadium. It’s Iola High’s homecoming, with crowning of the king and queen starting at 6:15.
The Mustangs are coming off three straight losses, all in SEK play. They’ve given up 179 points and a load of rushing yardage in those games.
The Titans shook up the SEK with a home victory, 35-31, over preseason league favorite Chanute last Friday. Columbus opened with a win over Parsons then lost 30-0 to Pittsburg.
“We know we have to be more physical up front, actually everywhere on the field,” said Rick Horton, Mustang head coach.
“Control of the line of scrimmage allows you to dictate what is going on in a game. We’ve have not done that this season.”
Horton said last week against Coffeyville, Iola’s offense was very “vanilla” simply because of the injuries to starting personnel. Senior quarterback Charles Apt and senior left guard Drew Shepherd are back in the lineup as is senior wide receiver Dylan Allen.
“Offensively, we’ll look more like the team we had on the field against Independence. We’re going to stick with things and work hard in getting better in our offense,” Horton said.
“Columbus runs the same defense we do so we’ve been looking at ways to find the creases to gain yards. We plan on spreading the football around to five, six players like we did in our first game.”
Speaking of the Columbus High defense, it took a blow of sorts when starting middle linebacker Chase Leonard injured his knee.
“Chase is having surgery this week and we miss him but the kids are ready to play,” said Dan Grundy, Titan head coach.
“We’re a very young team and we’re growing each game. The win over Chanute surprised others but not the coaches and the players here in Columbus.”
Grundy brings a Titan offense that has balance of running and passing out of the spread formation. The Titans had 129 passing yards and 116 rushing yards against Chanute.
“We run a spread offense but we run the ball more than other teams out of that,” Grundy said. “We want to run the ball to control the line of scrimmage.”
The rushing attack by the Titans is led by 6-foot, 200-pound senior running back Brandon Alberty. Quarterback Owen Jordan, a first-year starter, is directing the Titan offense with passing targets like 6-4 Dustin Morris and 6-4 Taylor Spear.
“We know defensively, we have to contain three of their best athletes in (Charles) Apt, (Jerrik) Sigg and (Marcus) Sullivan,” Grundy said.
The Titan defense stripped the football from Chanute twice in the final minutes to preserve the victory. Grundy said the Titans were pretty grounded as a team despite the big win last week.
“We’re facing Iola and we got back to work on Monday to prepare for Iola,” Grundy said.
Horton said the Mustangs know last week’s win for Columbus gave the Titans a lot of confidence.
“The Alberty kid is a load to bring down. They run option and we have to do a better job of tackling everybody out there. We have to contain the quarterback on the option,” Horton said.
“It comes down to being more physical on both sides of the football. It’s homecoming so there’s a lot of excitement in the air. The kids are ready to play.”
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