There are few secrets at this stage of the high school football season.
Lee’s Summit West coach Vinny Careswell certainly knows this.
Careswell knows Rockhurst will come at the Titans (8-2) with a power running game Friday, Oct. 27, when the two teams meet in a Class 6, District 4 semifinal clash at 7 p.m. at Titan Stadium.
He’s under no illusion that the Hawklets don’t know about the Titans’ defensive struggles of late or haven’t studied them.
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“That’s what Rockhurst is going to see, and that’s what their game plan is going to be, for sure,” Careswell said. “They’re going to run the ball at us and it’s a challenge for our defense.”
Watching West’s last two games, Rockhurst (7-3) will be a struggling team that lost 20-17 against Lee’s Summit during the regular-season finale and barely survived 37-30 in double-overtime against Raymore-Peculiar during the playoff opener.
The Hawklets undoubtedly saw Tigers quarterback Preston Whitworth grind out 158 of 305 total rushing yards during that Lee’s Summit loss.
And Rockhurst had to notice the 482 total yards Ray-Pec piled up, including 190 on the ground.
“You can look at both of those games and our defense needed to step up at certain times,” Careswell said. “Against Ray-Pec, I thought we played good at times, but that’s something we’ve got to improve on this week.”
Rockhurst will challenge West’s defense with a sizable offensive line and running back Brady McCanles, who tallied 148 rushing yards against No. 1-ranked Christian Brothers College Prep from St. Louis during a loss earlier this season.
Still, the Titans’ biggest challenge might come from the Hawklets’ defense.
Rockhurst limited Lee’s Summit North’s high-yardage backfield trio — quarterback Christian Carter and running backs John Eldridge and Ontario Russell — to 98 rushing yards during a 7-0 victory last week.
That could spell trouble for West running back Phillip Brooks, quarterback Ben Kobel and the rest of the team’s offensive playmakers.
“They can run the ball, they’re big up front, and they’ve got some good athletes,” Careswell said. “We’re going to have to battle.”
Lee’s Summit (5-5) also knows it’s in for a battle when it heads to Park Hill (8-2) for the other District 4 semifinal.
The Tigers-Trojans game is a rematch from the second week of the season, when Park Hill quarterback Billy Maples shredded the Tigers for 434 yards and a state-record nine touchdown passes during a 66-35 victory.
Lee’s Summit is a much different team since, entering the playoff showdown on a three-game winning streak that includes a 40-26 victory last week at Joplin.
Whitworth, who has topped 1,000 yards rushing this season, only ran for 84 yards against Joplin, but he also completed all seven pass attemtps for 197 yards with three touchdowns, all to Mitchell Tinsley.
Summit Christian Academy, like Lee’s Summit, is also on a late-season roll.
The Eagles (6-4) take a five-game winning streak into their Class 2, District 7 semifinal at home against Holden.
Summit Christian started the postseason with a 50-6 victory last week over Sherwood.
The Eagles’ offense has been led by running back Josh McConnell, who has rushed for 1,304 yards and 18 touchdowns this season, and freshman quarterback Grayson Sprouse, who has thrown for 1,003 yards and seven touchdowns.