NEWTON vs. McPHERSON 7 p.m. Friday, Fischer Field. Newton 2-7, 1-1 district; McPherson 7-1, 2-0 district. ROSTERS — thekansan.com.
The Newton High School football team hosts McPherson in Class 5A district play at 7 p.m. Friday at Fischer Field.The Bullpups are 7-1, 2-0 in district play. Newton is 2-6, 1-1 in district play. The sole chance the Railers would have to advance to state play is a win over McPherson and 0-8 Valley Center beating 5-3 Emporia. McPherson has clinched the district title and will host a playoff game Friday.The game also is Senior Night for the Railers as they honor 14 seniors listed on the roster.“This senior group really competed hard for us,” Newton coach Brent Glann said. “Some of them didn’t always see a lot of playing time on Friday nights, but they were very valuable in practice. They showed up every day and conducted themselves with class and maturity. They have seen some winning years for us and led us into the new league.”McPherson enters the game averaging 47.6 points per game. The sole blemish on the Bullpups’ record is 49-42 loss to Gardner-Edgerton. McPherson downed Emporia 33-7 last week.“This is the best team McPherson has had since I’ve been here,” Glann said. “Nobody has been able to stop them. They only reason they were held to 33 points last week was because of the rain they played in. They have a fine collection of skill people. They can beat you in a number of ways. If you take one thing away from them, they will find another way to beat you. Gardner-Edgerton didn’t stop them, they just outscored them, and Gardner-Edgerton is one of the top three teams in 5A and have the top player in the state.”McPherson quarterback Tyler Matthews has hit 116 of 150 passes for 1,922 yards with 26 touchdowns and three intercpetions. Running back Kevin O’Connor has 79 rushes for 944 yards and 11 touchdowns, followed by Seth Davenport with 43 rushes for 273 yards and six touchdowns. Christian Ulsaker has 52 catches for 863 yards and 11 touchdowns. Nick Gawanda has 23 catches for 456 yards and seven touchdowns.Glann said the team is truly multiple in its formations and equally effective running and passing.On defense, Logan Williams has 75 total tackles, followed by Dakota Nichols with 68 and Keenan Warren with 63. Gawanda and Phil Wills each have the team’s only sacks. Jacob Reece has two interceptions.“Their defense will fly to the ball,” Glann said. “They will line up in a 4-3 or 4-4. If you are in a long-yardage situation, they will line up in a three-man front and blitz the linebackers. They don’t do a lot of things, but like all good teams, everyone has a job to do and they carry out their assignments.”Newton is coming off a 51-0 win over Valley Center last week. Newton posted its first shutout of the year and had its highest-scoring game of the season.“We’re excited about this week,” Glann said. “We want to see how we play against one of the top three teams in the state along with Hutch and Gardner-Edgerton. We get better by playing teams like that. We’re going to have to find some way to stop them and we’re going to have to find some way to score some points.”While the Railers’ record has been less than stellar this season, Glann has seen bright spots in the team’s play, as well as overall improvement.“The guys understand very well what they need to do next year to get better,” Glann said. “We’ve had a lot of games this year where we’ve competed evenly, but make a mistake here or there and the score gets out of hand. We’re going to have to start making plays. Next year, our players are going to get stronger and faster. They will have to play with more confidence.”Glann said the jump to Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I play has been something the team talked about in the off-season, but couldn’t totally understand until getting on the field with its new opponents.Next year, the Railers again will be bolstered by strong freshmen and junior high teams from this year, but those players will have to be ready for the jump to varsity competition.