The battle for the Western Athletic Conference title heats up Friday night as the Dodge City Red Demons hit the road to take on Great Bend, a team tied at the top of the standings with the Demons.


     The battle for the Western Athletic Conference title heats up Friday night as the Dodge City Red Demons hit the road to take on Great Bend, a team tied at the top of the standings with the Demons.
     DCHS is coming off a 30-7 Homecoming victory over Liberal to put them at 1-0 in the WAC. Great Bend escaped last week with a 14-12 win over Garden City, putting the two schools at the top of the standings.
     History would favor the Red Demons in this matchup, which has seen the two schools battle 83 times with Dodge City winning 53, losing 28 and tying twice.
     However, lady luck has been on the side of the Panthers more recently, with Great Bend claiming victory in 10 of the past 11 matchups. Great Bend had won 10 games in a row before now second-year head coach Dave Foster took over and defeated the Panthers 31-14 last season.
     Foster said one of the benefits of being a new coach was not having those past streaks affect his coaching style.
     "When I came in, I didn't really have a clue of what streaks were in place," Foster said. "We just came in and based everything off where the teams were at right now."
     Last year, one of the keys to beating Great Bend was the use of the run-and-gun attack. The Demons like to use it to wear down opposing defenses. Dodge jumped out to an early lead and never took their foot off of the throat of the Panthers.
     While most believe a no-huddle offensive assault is nothing but passes, it is the implication of the running game that will open up those passing lanes, a tactic Foster would like to see performed to perfection against Great Bend.
     "If we can get in our tempo and in our rhythm, I believe we are a very difficult team to stop," Foster said. "But we have to be able to run the football, and that is something we have learned every game."
     Dodge City boasts the number-one-scoring attack in the WAC, averaging close to 40 points per contest.
     Leading the offense is quarterback Taylor Murphy, who leads the conference in passing and is fifth in rushing, and Parker Davis, second in rushing (548 yards) and first in rushing touchdowns (11).
     The Demons will be without impact starter Isaiah Bradshaw, who will be sidelined with mononucleosis.
     Despite missing Bradshaw, it has been a story of different players stepping up when their help is needed. This is also thanks in part to added depth over last season's football team.
     "We have 35-40 more players on our roster as compared to last year," Foster said. "So with that comes added depth and we aren't nearly as concerned with injury issues as much compared to a year ago."
     Dodge City is expecting a fight out of Great Bend, especially on the road, but Foster has faith in those travelling to the contest that will bring the noise to an unexpecting Panther team.
    "We travel as well as anybody in 6A, I firmly believe that," Foster said. "The ones that travel are consistently loud, so sometimes we enjoy going on the road. We enjoy being the bad guy going into someone else's place."
     Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Great Bend High School. The contest can also been seen via a live stream on www.reddemonfootball.com or it can heard on the radio at 95.5 FM.

Reach Garrett Ritonya at (620) 408-9915 or email him at garrett.ritonya@dodgeglobe.com.