Pregame Outlook —

Undefeated Bulldogs come to play Mustangs

Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
Two straight years Independence High’s coaches, players and fans had to watch as Iola High’s Connor Frazell (14) kicked game-deciding field goals — last year at Independence the field goal came at the end of the first half and held up during a second-half rally by the Bulldogs.Two years ago it came with two seconds left to complete a rally to win by the Mustangs in Iola.

Gunning to be the spoilers are Iola High’s Mustangs and Independence High’s Bulldogs.
When the two football teams meet in a Southeast Kansas League showdown Friday, one will be the spoiler. It’s a 7 p.m. kickoff at Iola’s Riverside Park stadium.
It is Iola High’s homecoming game. King and queen crowing ceremonies begin at 6:15 Friday night at the stadium.
The Bulldogs are trying to return the favor in 2009 as the Mustangs spoiled Independence’s 2008 homecoming game, winning 27-24.
The Mustangs are looking to get back on the winning track by once again knocking off the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs came into last year’s game 3-0 just like they come to town Friday.
“Iola has been our nemesis the past couple of years and our players are working hard to get past Iola this year,” said Carl Boldra, Independence head coach.
“We know Iola’s players play hard for Coach (Rick) Horton and they are coming off a tough loss so they’ll be coming into Friday’s game ready to win at home.”
Independence, which broke a 36-game losing streak one week before playing Iola in 2007, hasn’t been able to hurdle the Mustangs. A year ago the Bulldogs had wins over Labette County, Fort Scott and Parsons — just like this year — and lost at home.
Both teams went on to make the Class 4A playoffs. Both lost in the first round.
“The big key for us is to play a physical game with Independence. I watched a lot of football games last year even after we lost in the playoffs and in my opinion our game with Independence was one of the most physical games I saw,” said Rick Horton, Mustang head coach.
“We’ve told our kids all week they have to be prepared to be physical and match Independence’s intensity from beginning to end. Neither team backs down out there.”
Iola is 1-2 overall and 0-1 in Southeast Kansas League play. Independence’s three wins came at the expense of SEK teams.
The Bulldogs bring in a team with different personnel in key spots in 2009. Junior Peyton Botts was catching passes last year but this season is the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback.
“Peyton is doing a good job directing our offense. He can run the ball and throws well. We like to keep things balanced in the offense,” Boldra said.
Running out of the Pro-I offense, the Bulldogs are paced by junior Matt Bromley. Bromley is new to the starting job but has made it his spot as he has averaged 200 yards rushing per game this season.
Independence also has 6-2 senior Damone Hatch, who weighs 250 pounds, back at the tight end spot. Hatch is a load to handle whether he’s running a pass pattern or blocking at the line.
“We’re varsity-young on the line, both offense and defense, as we have new guys in those positions. But our guys are working well together,” Boldra said. “We know we have to come into Friday’s game focused and ready to play.”
Iola had problems a week ago at Osawatomie with drive-killing penalties and other penalties that allowed the Trojans to continue their drives.
“We have to cut out the penalties. Whether its a false start or a personal foul, they have to go,” Horton said.
“We believe we have one of the better running backs in the SEK. Marcus Sullivan is not just fast but has really made himself into more of a complete running back this season. He lowers his shoulder and drives forward.”
The Mustangs were forced into making a change offensively because of an injury. Sophomore wide receiver Jerrik Sigg suffered a broken fibula in his right leg early in last Friday’s game.
Drew Walden, another sophomore, will get the start at wide receiver.
Defensively, Horton has moved junior Drew Shepherd in to the noseguard spot on the line. Plus senior Nick Mueller gets his first varsity start as an inside linebacker as senior Chris Heffern moves to free safety.
“Our running game is starting to come around. Marcus is running hard. This will be the second game in which we’ve had the same five guys on the offensive line,” Horton said. “We’ve had trouble finding the right combination along the line so far but this group is starting to get it.”
Watch for Carlin Turner to rotate into the offensive line. Also Turner, Darin Hutton and Drew Walden will probably see time on the defensive line for the Mustangs.
Homecoming activities haven’t been a distraction for his team this week, Horton said, but having to play the junior varsity/freshman games Tuesday put the Mustangs’ normal game-preparation schedule in overload.
“But we had strong practice Wednesday even though it was a longer practice than normal,” Horton said. “Last week was a story of nothing going right for us so we’re working to focus and get back on track this week.”
Horton pointed to special teams as a positive for the Mustangs. First is senior placekicker and punter Connor Frazell, whose field goals have played a big part in the two close wins over Independence. Then there’s Sullivan in the return game, who had a 42-yard punt return for a touchdown last week.
Both coaches told the Register they expected a tough, hard-fought game Friday. That’s exactly what the Mustangs and Bulldogs have had the past three years.