Category Archives: Smith Center HS

Lady Red rolls

So much for drama in the girls game. Norton scored first, but Smith Center responded with 13 unanswered points and cruised to a 50-31 victory. The Lady Red are 5-1 on the year, with the lone loss last Saturday to a strong Washington County squad. The Bluejays are 3-3.

The Bluejays were hamstrung since one of their top low post players, Caitlyn Cox (Peggy’s daughter), was ill. She tried to give it a go, but just after halftime, she couldn’t go, and coach George Rossi smartly removed her after two minutes. Peggy told me Caitlyn will probably go home and not watch her brother Conor play much.

This is the final game for me before the long holiday layoff. I’m probably going to get rusty in the interim, but I am counting on a lot of action at Buffalo Wild Wings in KC.

Much needed change of scenery

SInce I got back from the wrestling tournament in Osborne two weeks ago Saturday, I have hardly left Russell. The only times I have left have been to go to Hays for errands, Victoria for the basketball games Tuesday, and to Lincoln last night for wrestling.

That changes in a little bit. I’m leaving for a very long trip to Norton for the Bluejays’ basketball doubleheader vs. Smith Center. It’s a two-hour drive up there, with the second half of the drive on the two-lane US 283, which has been known to be frequented by wildlife. I’ve seen more than my fair share of deer on the road, and I’m fortunate I haven’t hit one, because it is a long way from civilization in some stretches.

I’m staying in Norton overnight at the lovely Sleep Inn. Hard to believe a town the size of Norton (3,200) and far away from any interstate highway would have a national chain hotel, but they’ve done it right in Norton. The best part is the waffles for breakfast.

I’m also going to see a lot of people I’ve met through the years at Norton. Peggy Cox has been begging me to come, because her daughter Caitlyn and son Conor play basketball for the Bluejays. I found the Smith Center games on the schedule and decided to make the pilgrimage. She’s excited to say the least.

As for the games, the girls game should be competitive. Norton hasn’t beaten Smith Center for quite some time, but the Lady Red is without their All-League center, Drew Mann, who is still recovering from a partially dislocated kneecap she suffered in the season opener vs. Plainville Dec. 5. The boys game I don’t expect to be as close. The Bluejay boys are coming off the championship of the Goodland tournament, and the Redmen are 1-4.

I plan on a trip to Kansas City this weekend. Just don’t know if I”m going to go back to I-70 and go through Russell, or I’m going straight east on US 36. My guess is because of the distance involved, it may not be an advantage to take 36. I have time to think about that.

Ended a day early

Four Kansas State High School Activities Association state volleyball tournaments resumed at 10 a.m. Meanwhile, I am still in room 1123 at the Overland Park Marriott, not ready to go out.

Smith Center was eliminated after pool play yesterday at the Class 2A state tournament by going 1-2. The Lady Red lost to Wabaunsee in three sets, beat Chase County in two, but could not overcome Central Plains, which prevailed 25-19, 25-18.

The Lady Red ended the season 34-8, the fifth time in the last six years they have won at least 30 matches. Coach Nick Linn has a 736-266 career record, a .735 winning percentage, in 28 seasons at Smith Center. Excellent.

Linn and former Smith Center football coach Roger Barta (1978-2012) hold the Kansas record for most combined wins between a volleyball and football coach. Barta, a member of the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame, was 323-68 in 35 seasons.

The Mid-Continent League will have to wait at least another year to produce a volleyball state champion. League champion TMP-Marian went 1-2 in the Class 4A-Division II state tournament at Salina. The Monarchs won their first match over Holcomb, but they lost to Baldwin and Royal Valley. TMP finished the year 23-16, and it returns every player except one, Kaylor Gottschalk. I would expect the Monarchs to come back and return to state, whether it be in 4A Division II or in 3A. TMP was the smallest of the 64 Class 4A schools, and could easily be back in 3A next year.

Strangely enough, this is the first time since 2009 the MCL doesn’t have a team in the final four of the Class 2A state tournament. Smith Center was there in 2011 (3rd) and 2013 (4th), Plainville in 2010 (4th) and Hill CIty in 2012 (3rd). The 2A tournament moved from Hays to Emporia in 2010 because Class 1A split into two divisions.

Northwest Kansas had two teams left playing in state volleyball tournaments, both in Class 1A. Logan was in the final four of the Division II tournament, which began at 10 a.m., and Hoxie is in the Division I semis, which get underway at 2 p.m. Both 1A tournaments are at Fort Hays State University’s Gross Memorial Coliseum.

It’s down to football for the fall. There are only three teams remaining for Main Street Media papers: Osborne, Phillipsburg and Victoria. The Bulldogs and Knights play their 8-man openers Tuesday, while the Panthers have to wait until Friday to host Sacred Heart.

This is the first time since 2009 the lights will be dark in Smith County at playoff time. Smith Center is not in the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and Thunder Ridge is out for the first time since 2009 in the 8-man ranks. The Longhorns went 6-3, but two of those losses were to district foes Victoria and St. John’s/Tipton. Thunder RIdge’s other loss was to Osborne, last year’s 8-man Division I state champion.

Speaking of Osborne, the Bulldogs saw their 20-game winning streak end Thursday when they lost at Hanover. Osborne opens the playoffs at undefeated Peabody-Burns, which will be itching to avenge their loss at Osborne three years ago.

Victoria is favored in its first game vs. Hoxie. The Knights are also on the short list to win the Division II state championship when all is said and done.

Gotta decide if I’m going to Buffalo Wild Wings or not. The long drive makes me lean towards no, but it’s a nice day despite the low temperatures. Do I really want to sit here all day?

Gone before sunrise

The sun Is still two hours away from rising on this Halloween, but I am just minutes away from leaving the comfortable confines of room 1123 at the Overland Park Marriott and heading to Emporia for the opening of the Class 2A volleyball state tournament.

Smith Center is making its third appearance in the big dance in the last four years, and for the third time in as many trips, we’re starting at a different time.

In 2011, the 2A tournament was the only one held at Emporia, so the Kansas State High School Activities Association started the tournament at 10 a.m., early enough to make sure everyone would be done at a decent hour, but not so early that those who had a long way to travel could not make it if they left early enough Friday.

Last year, when 3A moved from Salina to Emporia due to the split in Class 4A which led to an extra tournament in that classification, the 3A event went in the morning and 2A did not start until 3:30 p.m. That was hellish, because there was no parking to be found around White Auditorium, which sits in downtown Emporia, and unlike the venues in Hays, Salina and Topeka, there is hardly any spaces if you don’t get there early enough.

This year, 2A starts at 8:30 a.m., although Smith Center doesn’t play its first match until 9:30. Everyone still has to be there early in order to introduce the teams to the crowd. I could do without it, but the KSHSAA wants it.

Time to get going. If Smith Center can survive pool play, we’ll do it tomorrow.

Playoffs sans Smith Center

For the first time in a dozen years, the Kansas State High School Activities Association’s football playoffs will be missing a familiar face.

Smith Center’s season ended last night when it was defeated 47-7 at Phillipsburg. The Redmen had to win the game to earn their 12th consecutive postseason bid, but they were never close as they suffered one of their most lopsided defeats to a Mid-Continent League foe since joining the league in 1977. That happened to be one year before Smith Center hired Roger Barta to coach their football program.

The Redmen made the playoffs 24 times in 35 seasons under Barta, winning eight state championships and 66 postseason contests. Those numbers certainly would have been higher if the KSHSAA had not limited the playoffs to only district champions from 1981, the year it began the district system to determine playoff qualifiers, through 2001. In 2002, the KSHSAA doubled the size of the playoff brackets to include second place teams from each district.

Smith Center won 10 consecutive district championships from 2004 through 2013, the last of those under Barta’s successor, Darren Sasse. The third place finish for the Redmen this season is not its worst; in 2002, they were 0-3, losing to Norton, Beloit and Phillipsburg.

From 1969, the first year the KSHSAA sponsored a football tournament, through 1980, all teams with eight victories earned automatic playoff bids. The playoff bracket was then completed with seven-win teams and so on, or if there were more eight-win teams than playoff spots, there would be play-in games.

The Redmen’s 67 playoff victories rank them third all-time, trailing only Silver Lake (87) and PIttsburg Colgan (75). The eight titles for Smith Center, including five in a row between 2004 and 2008, are tied for third, behind only Lawrence’s 10 and Kapaun Mount Carmel’s nine.

Barta went 323-68 in 35 seasons at Smith Center, and was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame earlier this month. In retirement, Roger has followed his son, Brooks, who has wonthree state championships and won nearly 200 games at Holton, located 20 miles north of Topeka in Jackson County. Brooks Barta was an All-State standout on the Redmen’s 1986 state championship team before earning All-Big Eight Conference honors as a linebacker at Kansas State, becoming the first of many standouts produced by Bill Snyder.

The Mid-Continent League will not be lacking for playoff representation. Norton went 9-0 and is primed for a deep run in the Class 3A postseason, while Phillipsburg and Oakley will play in the 2-1A bracket. The Panthers lost a tough game last year in the second round of the 3A playoffs to powerhouse Scott City, and even though this year’s squad lost several standouts from the 2013 squad to graduation, this may be Phillipsburg’s best chance to bring home a title.

Phillipsburg didn’t make its first playoff appearance until 2002. It has gone seven more times since (not including 2014), but never past the quarterfinals. This is the Panthers’ first year in 2-1A, the smallest 11-man football classification.

Norton won 4A state championships in 1985 and 1986 and reached the title game in 1983 and 1989, all under Neil Mellilo. The Bluejays have remained strong under Bruce Graber and Lucas Melvin through the past two decades, but they have made it to the semifinals only once since the glory days, losing in 2009 to Wichita Collegiate.

Oakley’s farthest advance was to the semifinals in 2005 and 2009, only to lose each time at Smith Center. The Plainsmen did not join the MCL for football until this year, although the school was officially welcomed to the league for all other sports in July 2013.

The playoff brackets in Class 3A and the two 8-man divisions have been posted by the KSHSAA. The other classes will have theirs done by the end of tonight. And then the fun begins.

Sports Saturday morning

Smith Center solved the easy part of the playoff equation last night with a 34-8 victory over Bennington at home. The game was never in doubt, even though the Bulldogs scored in the second quarter to narrow the gap to 14-8.

The Redmen scored on their next drive on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Thayne Benoit to Mason Buckmaster, and then just before halftime, Kaden Meitler’s pass rush forced Bulldog quarteback Kyle Kiborz into a hurried throw which was intercepted by Gavin Overmiller. Smith Center cashed in the turnover for a touchdown, and it was 28-8 at halftime. Game over.

Now comes the hard part. Smith Center must win at Phillipsburg Thursday, or the Redmen are out of the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

Phillipsburg won a tougher than expected game at Ell-Saline 20-14. The Panthers would have clinched a playoff berth if they would have won by a larger margin, but I still think they win the district title Thursday by ousting the Redmen.

I listened to the final three innings of game three of the World Series on XM Radio going south on 281. The Royals won 3-2, as Wade Davis and Greg Holland retired the Giants in order in the eighth and ninth innings to put Kansas City up 2-1.

Since I have XM, I can get the Royals radio broadcasters, Denny Matthews and Ryan Lefebvre. I can also get the Giants’ call, which means the legendary voice of the one and only Jon Miller.

Under the MLB’s radio agreement with ESPN, the only stations which may carry local broadcasters during the World Series are the flagship stations, which this year means KCSP-AM in Kansas City and KNBR-AM in San Francisco. Every other station, including WIBW in Topeka, the only station to carry every Royals game since the franchise began in 1969, must take the ESPN Radio feed.

However, there is no exclusivity for local stations and their broadcasters, meaning any station in one of the competing cities can carry ESPN’s feed if they so choose. This has caused a major ruckus in Kansas City, where WHB-AM, the leading sports talk station in the market and the archrival of KCSP, has carried ESPN’s feed for all Royals playoff games. I’m sure there are affiliates in all the other postseason cities, including San Francisco, which has the same problem. It’s worse in KC, however, because WHB dominates the market, save for Royals games, which air on KCSP. The Chiefs have aired on an FM station, KCFX, since 1989.

Matthews, who has been with the Royals since day one, did not call the 1980 World Series at all. That was the last year local radio stations were precluded from producing their own broadcasts, forcing even the flagship stations to take the national feed, which at the time was CBS Radio.

In 1980, it may not have caused more than a ripple in Kansas City, but it caused a near-riot in Philadelphia, where Phillies fans were not allowed to hear the voice of one of the legends of broadcasting, Harry Kalas. Most sports fans, myself included, first heard Kalas doing voice-over work for NFL Films, but in the City of Brotherly Love, he was Jesus Christ as far as broadcasters were concerned. I say Jesus Christ because the Lord was John Facenda, who of course was the main voice of NFL Films from 1966 until his death in 1984, and also was a famous anchor for the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia from the late 1940s through 1973.

In 1981, MLB changed its rules to allow the flagship station for each team to produce its own broadcasts , but only the flagship could carry the local announcers; all other stations still had to take the national feed. It worked out wonderfully in 1982, when fans for the Brewers and Cardinals got to hear Bob Uecker and Jack Buck, respectively. The next year, Kalas got to call his beloved Phillies in the World Series, but they lost to Orioles. Same in 1984 with the Padres (Jerry Coleman) and Tigers (Ernie Harwell). Matthews got his chance in 1985.

As much as I’d like to sit around, I’ve got to get moving. Got a long trip to Scott City for sub-state volleyball this afternoon. I’ll next report when I’m there.

Lights out at Hubbard?

I have got to start going to bed earlier than I have. I slept too late again today. I also didn’t help myself by stuffing my face. It came back to haunt me just before noon.

Regardless, I’m back in Smith Center for what more than likely will be the final football game at Hubbard Stadium this season. The Redmen must defeat Bennington to keep their playoff hopes alive, but that’s only half the story.

Smith Center, which has lost to Ell-Saline and LaCrosse in the last two weeks, although the latter was a non-district game, also has to defeat Phillipsburg Thursday to make the postseason for the 12th consecutive season. The week six boo-boo in Brookville, a game in which Ell-Saline gained a meager 64 yards, has put the Redmen squarely behind the 8-ball.

The Redmen’s current playoff run began in 2003. It includes five consecutive Class 2-1A state championships between 2004 and 2008, and 29 of the 79 victories in Kansas’ longest high school football winning streak.

It used to be much harder to make the playoffs. From 1981, the year the Kansas State High School Activities Association introduced district football, through 2001, only the district champion reached the postseason. There were a few seasons where 8-1 Smith Center teams sat home because the loss came in the wrong game.

1983 is a good example. The Redmen won the 1982 state title and were undefeated going into their final game of the season. but they lost to Osborne and that was it. The Bulldogs went on to win the 3A state championship, so no shame in that.

The Royals and Giants play game three of the World Series at 7:07 CT tonight. Smith Center principal Greg Koelsch and athletic director Greg Hobelmann are already looking for ways to get updates on the game. I have the MLB At-Bat app on my iPhone.

Speaking of my iPhone…I may have bit off more than I can chew.

Long day coming

Day two of my 10th Mid-Continent League volleyball tournament began at 9 a.m. Actually, it began a little after 6 when I pulled out of my garage in Russell. I decided to take the long way through Hays and Phillipsburg so I could get breakfast at Wendy’s, which is far superior to the crap McDonald’s serves.

Smith Center dropped the first set of its first match this morning to Hill City 25-22, but the Lady Red have come back to win the second 25-9. Smith Center now leads the third 22-7, and it looks like it is back in control. I hope this is the first of a bunch of three-set matches, which will make today longer than it already is. Now I get word that the first match at the other gym, Ellis-Trego, is going three. Yikes.

It happened at the 2010 tournament in Norton. One pool had three-set match after three-set match, and it got to the point where there was a lag time of two hours between one pool and the other. The semifinals that day didn’t start until after 5, and it wasn’t until after 8 when I finally got out of there. Last year at Plainville wasn’t nearly as bad, but it helped that most matches went only two sets.

I’ll be leaving the high school at 11 to go to the other gym and see Norton play. Peggy Cox I’m sure wants to see me.

Gone before sunrise

It’s almost time for me to leave the abode on North Brooks Street and head back to Smith Center for day two of the Mid-Continent League volleyball tournament. Each team will play two more pool matches before the top two teams in each pool advance to the semifinals.

Two-time defending league champion Smith Center and Stockton are 2-0 in pool A, while Plainville and TMP-Marian are 2-0 in Pool B. The four undefeated teams will pair off in pool play today.

Smith Center lost its second consecutive football game last night, as LaCrosse took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and cruised to a 48-14 victory. The Leopards scored on each of their first two possessions, then tallied again in the final minute of the opening period on Andrew Jay’s 65-yard interception return. The Redmen twice got to within 14 in the second quarter on touchdowns from Cale Rogers (7 yard run) and Kody Zabel (11 yard pass from Thayne Benoit), but never any closer.

LaCrosse rushed for 408 yards, with 164 from quarterback Jack Garcia and 150 more from Jay. The Leopards gained 508 yards against a Smith Center defense which allowed 64 last week to Ell-Saline and 82 two weeks prior to Republic County.

The Leopards had been lying in wait for this game, even though it wasn’t a district game and has no bearing on playoff berths. LaCrosse lost playoff games to Smith Center n 2006 and 2008, the latter at home, and the Leopards made sure they enjoyed every minute of the victory. The final score would have been worse had not a 76-yard touchdown run by Jay in the fourth not been called back by a holding penalty well downfield

LaCrosse is basically in the playoffs anyway. The Leopards are 2-0 in their district and have 1-6 Wichita County next week before closing with Oakley. .

Smith Center was limited to 169 yards. No back gained more than 41.

This is the latest in a season Smith Center has lost back-to-back games since 2002, when it lost all three district games to Norton, Phillipsburg and Beloit to finish 4-5, the last time the Redmen missed the playoffs. If the Redmen are to avoid missing the 2014 postseason, they will have to beat Bennington next week at home and Phillipsburg on the road Oct. 30.

No other surprises last night. Norton 60, Russell 14; Phillipsburg 54, Republic County 6; Plainville 51, Wichita County 7; Osborne 52, St. Francis 6; Hill City 51, Stockton 34; and Victoria 58, Thunder Ridge 34.

Okay enough dilly dallying. Time to get going north.

Going south

Volleyball went pretty much as expected yesterday. Three of the top four seeds in the Mid-Continent League tournament–#1 Smith Center, #3 Plainville and #4 Stockton–each went 2-0. The fourth 2-0 team after yesterday is #5 seed TMP-Marian, which ousted #2 seed Ellis in yesterday’s only three-set match.

It’s a day off from volleyball because football is taking center stage. I’m on my way to LaCrosse. where Smith Center faces the host Leopards. It is not a district game, but the Redmen will be aiming to get back on track after last week’s one-point loss at Ell-Saline. LaCrosse is 5-1, with its lone loss coming in week four to Southeast of Saline.

Smith Center won two playoff games over LaCrosse in a three-year stretch several years ago. The Redmen won 46-0 at home in 2006, then two years later came to LaCrosse and won 32-14. Both games were in the Class 2-1A quaterfinals, and in both years, Smith Center went on to win state championships. The latter game was featured prominently in Joe Drape’s book Our Boys, the book about the Redmen’s 2008 season.

I originally was going to stay home and do Russell’s game vs. Norton, but I don’t care for homecoming. Not at all. I’ll gladly make the 53-mile drive instead.