Amateur football: Huskerz head into playoff season
WORTHINGTON — The way Ken McCuen sees it, the Southwest Huskerz aren’t lacking any confidence heading into today’s (Saturday, June 28) first-round Southern Plains Football League playoff game at Trojan Field.
That may not be how their rivals, the Buffalo Ridge Wildcats, see it, however.
“That’s the bad thing about what last week’s loss did. Now it shows that we’re vulnerable. Not to ourselves — to the other team,” he said.
Today at 7 p.m., the Huskerz bring their 7-1 record into the first round of the SPFL playoffs against a 2-6 Buffalo Ridge outfit. The Huskerz are coming off their first setback of the season, 32-22 against the Midwest Rampage.
Never mind that several Huskerz players were absent due to bruises or commitments. Southwest “sputtered out of the gate,” said their head coach.
“I think we had a wake-up call last week,” McCuen explained. “We understand that we’re still at the top of the mountain. ... But all the accolades go out the door if you don’t do something in the tournament.”
Midwest led 19-0 heading into the fourth quarter last Saturday at Webster City, Iowa. The Huskerz answered with 22 fourth quarter points to pull to within 25-22, but the Rampage scored on a 40-yard touchdown run with 1:20 to play to secure the upset.
Southwest played the game without wide receiver Trae Johnson, running back Khalid Waters, cornerback-receiver Jay Miller, lineman Brad Bentle, safety Rob Smith and fullback Andy Henning. But McCuen says the team will be back at full strength tonight.
Southwest defeated Buffalo Ridge 42-12 in a June 7 regular season matchup, and although the Wildcats are 2-6 McCuen expects them to be ready to play some good football. The Wildcats participated in the SPFL championship game last season and are, in McCuen’s words, “used to winning in the playoffs.”
The Huskerz typically rely on an aggressive, sack-happy defense that focuses first on stopping the run. McCuen describes Buffalo Ridge as a “power team” that likes to run, so the Huskerz defense will attempt to take the Wildcats out of their comfort zone and force them to pass.
On paper, Southwest should be more than up to the task. Five-eight, 220-pound Huskerz running back Darieon Smith leads the league in rushing with 1,164 yards and has scored 13 touchdowns. Johnson, who has scored seven TDs, is the league’s leading receiver with 600 yards.
Quarterback Jordan Larson is the league’s No. 2-rated passer, throwing for 1,082 yards with 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions, while rushing for 340 yards.
Defensively, linebacker Mark Riley has 24 sacks and linebacking teammate Jordan Bouw has 18. Linebacker-defensive lineman Demetrius Washington has 42 solo tackles including 28 for loss. And defensive back Tyler Decker has nine interceptions.