Pregame Outlook

Mustangs, Grizzlies wrangle in SEK play

Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Facing bigger players along the line of scrimmage is a fact of life for Iola High’s Mustangs in 2009. The Mustangs are about using quickness to slip in around linemen like senior linebacker Nick Mueller (30) did on this play at Coffeyville last Friday as IHS senior linebacker Kyler Thompson (52) takes on a lineman out front. Friday the Mustangs travel to Altamont to play Labette County High’s Grizzlies in Southeast Kansas League action.

Iola High’s Mustangs have moved the football this season. They have “played with some of the better teams but we don’t finish things out,” said Rick Horton, Mustang head coach.
The Mustangs will have to finish things — score on drives — Friday at Altamont against Labette County High’s Grizzlies. The Mustangs and Grizzlies kickoff at 7 p.m. in a Southeast Kansas League contest.
The Grizzlies, who lost 36-0 to Pittsburg High’s Purple Dragons last week, are loaded for bear this week. LCHS head coach Craig Hartman said the Grizzlies have their starting quarterback and “everyone is back in the right spots.
“We’re excited to be playing at home after two road games. We were in a tough spot last week and had trouble early with turnovers. But before last week, we have done a good job of taking care of the football,” Hartman said.
Labette County had seven turnovers, five coming in the first half, in its loss to Pittsburg. The Grizzlies (3-2) had junior quarterback Keaton Turner on the sidelines after he suffered a concussion in a win against Fort Scott the week before.
“We’ve practiced all week with the idea that Labette County will have the Turner kid back. We want to put pressure on him early to see if he is game-ready,” said Horton about Iola’s preparation for the game.
“Labette County runs the option well and we have to be assignment-sound defensively. Every player has to be responsible for doing his job with no breakdowns or Labette’s gone for a big gain.”
Turner is back at quarterback for the Grizzlies. That means David Brown goes back to running back after a week at quarterback. Joining Brown in the backfield is another senior John Hambleton.
“We need to establish our offense again and do what we do best. Defensively, we have to recognize all the sets Iola comes out in and prepare to defend both the run and the pass,” Hartman said.
Defensively, Hartman pointed to his tri-captains, Labette County’s linebackers. The three seniors — Brannon Green, Cameron Sale and Hambleton — have provided solid leadership for the defense. Keith Rakestraw, a senior safety, has four interceptions on the season.
“We’ve had a great team effort by our defense this season. We just have to play solid, sound football,” Hartman said.
Labette County’s first two wins of the season were back-to-back home victories over Chanute and Coffeyville.
Iola hasn’t won at Altamont for a long time. The past three years it has been the home team winning the matchups which means Iola won last year 41-22.
“The key is we have to win the battle up front at some point this season. Offensively, we need to establish some kind of running game,” Horton said of the Mustangs. “We need to finish. We had Independence down 10-0 and running the ball against them in the first half.
“But the first sign of adversity, we don’t respond. We struggle to respond to adversity and work through it.”
Injuries and illness continue to hamper the Mustangs. Starting tailback Marcus Sullivan could be suited up but “probably not” play. Illness had starting center Darin Hutton and starting wide receiver/defensive end Ethan Fulton out of practices this week.
Shepherd started as center to open the season. Shepherd replaces Ethan Fulton as defensive end this week. Connor Frazell gets the start at wide receiver.
Drew Walden makes his second start as tailback for Iola.