Typically once the playoffs start, familiarity with your opponent goes out the window.
That won’t be the case for Manhattan and Dodge City Friday night.
The two teams will meet in the playoffs for the third consecutive year in the first round of the playoffs. Last season, Manhattan ended Dodge City’s year in a 55-0 rout, while the Red Demons managed a 44-20 win the year before that.
“The first year we went out there, we had a good team and it was a real struggle, because they had a new coach and a new system,” Manhattan coach Joe Schartz said. “We didn’t quite have an understanding of what they wanted to do offensively.
“Then obviously, the second year, coming off of that heartbreak, losing to them out there, we got them at home the next year and the kids were highly motivated and we had the luxury of playing them the year before and having that film. We made some adjustments and we played much better.”
Schartz said in year three, most advantages his team had last year are out the window, though they won’t have to take a four-hour bus trip.
“Now this year, it’s a toss-up again,” he said. “The one thing we have going for us is we do have home-field advantage. They still have to make that trip. That being said, they did it last year. They gained that experience and they lost last year, so now they’re highly motivated.”
This year’s Dodge City team sports a 4-5 overall record and just barely squeaked into the playoffs after winning its final regular-season game against Garden City by the required four points to earn a playoff spot. They also got help from district-champ Hutchinson, who beat Maize by more than 13 points to seal the deal.
The Red Demons feature a balanced attack on offense, with running back Parker Davis returning for his senior year. Dodge City features a new quarterback in Kelan Newton, who has done well this season and should test the Indians’ secondary.
Defensively, the Red Demons have mixed up their looks this season, with mixed results. They’ve been in some shootouts, including a 54-51 district loss to Maize in Week 8. They are giving up an average of 34 points a game.
Schartz said given the choice, he prefers to be familiar with his opponents come playoff time, making the Dodge City draw a favorable one.
“I think it’s always to our advantage to have an understanding of our opponent,” he said. “It gets difficult in playoff team when you’re obviously out of league and out of district and you don’t have that familiarity with that program and coaching staff and the things that they like to do, it becomes more difficult to prepare.”
Schartz said his team will have to regroup after losing the Silver Trophy last week to Junction City. Dodge City, on the other hand, won its rivalry game against Garden City to keep its season alive.
“They played their hearts out last week and they put it on the line like we asked them to,” Schartz said. “So it’s a challenge, but as time goes on and the week goes along, they’ll gain momentum and gain their focus. We’ll get re-energized and realize they have a great opportunity ahead of them.
“That’s an advantage for Dodge City right now. They’re sky-high. They beat their rival. So, we definitely have a tough opponent coming in here and they are on a high.”
Whichever team advances in Friday’s first-round game will likely travel to top-seeded Derby in the second round, which gets Wichita North (1-8) in the first round.
Kick off for Friday’s first-round game is set for 7 p.m. at Bishop Stadium. For those who can’t attend the game, The Mercury will webcast the game at www.themercury.com