Here’s a preview of the Kansas Class 5A high school football state championship game:
By KATHLEEN GIER
The Kansas City Star
Class 5A: Blue Valley (9-3) vs. Salina South (10-2)
Blue Valley football coach Eric Driskell gauges his team’s success on how much they improve throughout the season. This year, his Tigers have passed all of his tests.
After starting with an early 1-1 record, the Tigers finished the regular season 6-3 and entered the Kansas class 5A state tournament as the No. 5 seed out of the East region. Since then, the Tigers have won three straight games to advance to the state final where they will face Salina South at 1 p.m. Saturday at Emporia State University.
For the Tigers, it’s their fourth trip to the state championship game in the last five years. They lost in the quarterfinals last season to St. Thomas Aquinas. This time, they are seeking the school's sixth state football title and their first since 2010. Salina South has won two state titles.
Driskell said the driving force behind the Lancers' success has been the team’s chemistry.
“It’s something you can’t control as a coach, but that has been probably one of the biggest things of improvement. That brings our trust in each other and a lot of things that are out of your control as a coach,” Driskell said. “Then we’re playing faster, more physical each week and playing within ourselves, which are all things we’ve improved on.”
The state title game will be a rematch of Blue Valley’s Week 3 game with Salina South. Blue Valley won that game 35-28, but Salina South put up the most successful offensive attack against the Tigers, gaining 465 yards of total offense. Since then, the Cougars have won nine straight games, including a quarterfinals victory against previously undefeated and defending state champion Bishop Carroll of Wichita.
“We’re going to have to match their physicality, and we’re going to have to take care of the football,” Driskell said. “From a defensive standpoint, we’re going to have to be unbelievably relentless to the football. We have to be really sound because they do so many things so well. They have a great running back, and the quarterback can run, so we have to be really sound defensively and minimize the big play. Then, we have to really take care of the ball offensively.”