By Mark Schnabel
The good news for the Newton High School football team going into the final week of the regular season is the Railers already have qualified for the Class 5A playoffs.
That takes a lot of the pressure off when the Railers host 5-3 Kapaun-Mt. Carmel at 7 p.m. Friday at Fischer Field. The game is senior night for the Railers.
“That’s a big load off of us,” Newton coach Brent Glann said. “We’d still like to win the district championship, something we’ve only done twice.”
Newton improved to 7-1, 4-1 in Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division II play and 2-0 in district play with a 47-7 win over Arkansas City last week. Kapaun improved to 2-0 in district play with a 28-21 win over Winfield.
Kapaun’s three losses have come by a combined 12 points — 16-13 to Wichita Northwest, 14-7 to Wichita Southeast and 36-34 to rival Bishop Carroll.
“They are a very good 5-3 team,” Glann said. “Their three losses were in close games to quality opponents. They are going to be a tough challenge for us. They do a lot of good things well. On offense, they run a lot of different formations. They mix it up well. On defense, they bring a lot of blitzes. They bring a lot of pressure. They have very good special teams.”
Kapaun running back Dyllon Knox has 129 carries for 850 yards this season in seven games. Knox has 12 touchdowns. Quarterback Keaton Lewis has hit 15 of 42 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions in six games. Chris Hayes has hit 11 of 38 passes for 200 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions in four games.
Leading receivers include Tyler Nulik, Hayes, Jonathan Truman and Zac Rasmussen.
“The defense is going to have to recognize their formations and line up accordingly,” Glann said. “We can’t allow them to outflank us. We’re going to have to match their speed. Their running back is capable of going over 200 yards on anybody. It’s going to take an all-out good effort.
“On offense, we’re going to have to know what our blocking assignments are and make adjustments as we need to. We’re going to have to maintain possession.”
Kapaun won the game 45-21 last season, knocking the Railers from playoff contention.
“Last year, we didn’t put anything together on either side of the ball,” Glann said. “They just outplayed us. We need to get off to a faster start this year. We really haven’t gotten off to a fast start against anybody this year. We’re going to need to this week.”
The Railers lose linebacker-fullback Austin Burch to a broken bone in his leg. Burch had been one of the Railers’ leading tacklers this season and blocked two punts in successive weeks.
“We feel bad for Austin,” Glann said. “That’s a big blow to us.”
Newton honors 16 seniors Friday — Miguel Johns, Nathan Briar, Cody Opland, Evan Thomas, Mike Kelly, Jordy Bonczyk, Burch, Craig Gihring, Chris Garcia, Carlos Hernandez, Will Markus, Stuart McConnell, Reagan Bender, Kevin Ronen, Paulo Hoffman and Tyler Rambo.
“We’d like to wish the volleyball team and the cross country team the best of luck as they compete in state this weekend,” Glann said. “We’d also like to wish the best of luck to the soccer team as they continue to advance in regionals.”
TAILGATE PARTY — KSN Television is sponsoring a Friday Football Fever Tailgate Party, offering a brat, chips and a drink for $2 with proceeds going to the Newton High School Booster Club.
ELSEWHERE IN THE DISTRICT — Winfield (3-5) at Arkansas City (4-4) (7 p.m. today): Both teams are out of the district race. This is Arkansas City’s last scheduled home game at Curry Field, as the Bulldogs will open a new, artificial turf facility on campus for the next school year. This Winfield’s final game in the AV-CTL II as the Vikings drop to the AV-CTL III next year, as well as dropping to Class 4A.
ELSEWHERE IN THE AV-CTL II — McPherson (7-1) at Hays (7-1): McPherson rebounded from its first loss of the season by downing Great Bend 49-10. Hays was unbeaten until getting rolled over by top-ranked Hutchinson 56-0. The winner of this game clinches a playoff spot as a district runner-up. Wichita West (1-7) at Valley Center (0-8): Both teams are eliminated from playoff contention. Wichita West has lost seven in a row since a 34-7 win over Wichita South in week 1. Valley Center’s last win came against West in last year’s season finale. Valley Center has yet to score in distict play. Campus (1-7) at Wichita North (1-7): Both teams have been eliminated from Class 6A playoff contention. Campus fell to Wichita South 12-9 last week, while North lost to Northwest 60-35.