Back in September when Blue Valley and Salina South met for the first time, each team had a 1-1 record. Blue Valley won the game and would lose just two more times while Salina South went on to rattle off nine straight victories.
Now the two schools meet with the Kansas Class 5A championship on the line Saturday at 1 p.m. at Emporia State University. It’s the 11th appearance, and the fourth in the past five seasons, in the title game for Blue Valley, who won it last in 2010. It’s the fourth appearance for Salina South, who won its last title in 2004.
The Cougars are averaging 447 yards per game with 75 touchdowns through 12 games this season. In the first matchup, they put up 465 yards of total offense, which tied a season-high for a Tigers’ opponent, so Blue Valley head coach Eric Driskell is wary.
“They’re a great football team. They’re big, they’re physical, great run game, great defense and they’ve got some skill kids that can throw the ball,” Driskell said. “They pose a great threat, and facing somebody twice in one year is always a difficult task. Since we beat them in week three, they haven’t lost. So they’ve won nine in a row, and they’re obviously playing at a very high level. It will take our best efforts.”
Salina South, 10-2, is led by senior running back Mike Jones who has 1,797 yards and 31 touchdowns on 219 carries. Senior quarterback Justin Stonebraker has 1,683 yards and 22 touchdowns while completing 95 of his 161 attempts.
Blue Valley, 9-3, has a similar run-first mentality with three players who have more than 650 rushing yards. Chance Nelson leads the group with 1,628 yards and 18 touchdowns on 236 carries, followed by Montana Brady with 768 yards and 11 touchdowns on 110 carries and senior quarterback Logan Brettell who has 655 yards and four touchdowns on 104 carries.
“We feel like we’ve had a good, solid run game all year and the offensive line has done a good job,” Driskell said. “The guys who have been carrying the ball have done a great job as well. Then we feel like, if somebody puts enough people in the box and takes that away, we can throw the ball, which we ended up having to do (last week) against Blue Valley West.”
In that game, Brettell completed 19 of his 31 attempts and threw for 232 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions. He also kicked a 23-yard field goal. So far this season, he has 1,598 yards with 19 touchdowns completing 127 of his 222 pass attempts.
“Nelson is a dynamic athlete who can make things happen. If you give him a crease, he makes you pay. And Brettell is having a great senior year,” Salina South coach Sam Sellers said. “He’s given their offense that passing aspect, and when he’s hitting everything like he can, it makes them awfully tough to stop.”