By CONOR NICHOLL
HAYS – Scott City senior J.P. Harris was blunt when he described last season’s 4-5 record, the program’s first losing mark since 1986.
“We needed redemption from last year,” Harris said. “Last year was pitiful.”
Scott City opened 3-1 with a three-point loss to Cimarron, just the second defeat to the Bluejays in the last nine meetings. The Beavers had scored 22.8 points per game, including a 14-12 win versus rival Holcomb, an eventual seven-win team.
However, the Beavers lost Lawson Bailey and Jace Thomas to injuries in Week 4. Both were key players, lead blockers and leaders.
“When they got hurt, it was kind of crushing for us,” veteran coach Jim Turner said.
Scott City finished 1-4 in the final five games, a stretch where it tallied just 8.4 points a contest. Three of the losses came versus Russell, Colby and Clay Center, all four-win programs. Goodman still led the Beavers in rushing.
“The big thing was we didn’t have very many seniors,” Turner said. “And we ended up with a lot of injuries. So we were playing young kids on varsity that didn’t need to be on varsity.”
Bailey and Thomas are in the 190-195 pound range. Scott City’s offense relies on lead blocking. Without them, the Beavers had 135 pounders lead blocking.
“We were playing people that weren’t ready, and we were playing small backs,” Turner said. “And small backs aren’t good lead blockers.”
In the summer, Scott City was named a potential breakout team. The Beavers have opened 3-1. Turner has served in many coaching roles at Scott City since 1995, including long stints as football’s defensive coordinator, head girls’ basketball coach and head track coach.
This year, Scott City started with a 42-0 win versus Cimarron and beat Colorado power Wray, 28-0. In Week 3, SC lost, 30-20, at Millwood (Okla.), a 704-mile round trip.
Last Friday, Scott City held previously undefeated Thomas More Prep-Marian to negative yardage in a 28-14 road victory. Overall, SC outgained the Monarchs 327 to minus-26.
“We have a lot more energy in the locker room,” junior fullback Brady Welker said. “Everyone seems like they want to be here, and everyone is having fun. Coaches are having fun. Our players are having so much fun, practice, on the field, in the locker room. We just have so much energy. I feel like that contributes to us playing well.”
On Friday, Scott City opens District 8 play at home versus surprising Hugoton (4-0, 1-0). Holcomb, SC and Hugoton are generally considered the top-three district squads.
Scott City is highly experienced with many returning starters, including senior quarterback Dylan Metzger, senior linebacker Aaron Ruelas, junior running back Collin McDaniel, and three juniors: Houston Frank (OL/LB), Tanner Gooden (OL/LB) and Brayden Bruner (OL/DL). SC has long kept the same coaching staff.
TMP had a pair of non-offensive touchdowns from senior Kade Harris. Scott City was by far the more physical team against the Monarchs. Scott City finished with six sacks.
“You better run downhill or they are going to run it through you,” Turner said of TMP. “But I thought our tackles probably did a better job of making piles, and the linebackers just filled.”
Harris, who often knifed in straight up the middle on blitzes or read the play correctly, delivered three tackles for loss, including two sacks.
“They just did a great job of controlling our offensive line,” TMP coach Jay Harris said.
“That’s the best part of our defense is how physical we are,” J.P. Harris added.
TMP’s top-two linemen, Kolton Hagans (severe elbow injury) and Kendall Walker (cramps), exited the game.
“It’s just intensity in practice,” Harris said. “I feel like everyone in practice is always eager to hit somebody. Someone makes a good hit, and you get praised for it, so the more you get praise in your head, the more you want to do it, the more you just go for somebody.”
Welker credited SC strength and conditioning coach Todd Richardson and has shown marked improvement this fall.
“He has stepped up,” Harris said.
Welker and Harris are best friends and compete in football, wrestling and baseball together.
“It’s been different from last year,” Welker said. “I felt like I have got a lot quicker, and stronger. Our strength and conditioning coach … shout out to him, he’s been amazing with us in the weight room, same with coach Turner, getting us speed, and just training us in everything. It’s been great.”
He rushed 25 times for 169 yards and all four scores. Plus, he twice pinned TMP inside the 20-yard line on punts.
“He runs hard, he is tough,” Turner said. “He has got great leverage, he’s good balance, he just runs hard, great kid, too, he’s a good leader. Even though he is a junior, he is one of our kids that’s always keeping everybody pumped up. He’s a good kid.”
In particular, Bailey served as a key lead blocker and pass rusher.
“Lawson is a great pass rusher,” Turner said.
Welker had his own redemption in the game when Monarch sophomore Austin Gilbert forced a fumble that Harris ran back for a score. Down the stretch, SC relied on Welker to break a 14-14 tie. Several times, Welker bowled over defenders for extra yards. Harris said Welker “puts energy” in the team with his ability to run “somebody over.”
“I felt like I needed to redeem myself and coach kept giving me chances,” Welker said. “We kept driving on that third touchdown, and I felt like I did my job there, and everyone did their job.”