It's a game for all the marbles, bragging rights and any other sports cliche one can think up.

      But the fact of the matter is — this is the Hatchet Game.

It's a game for all the marbles, bragging rights and any other sports cliche one can think up.
     But the fact of the matter is — this is the Hatchet Game.
     This isn't just a battle. It's a war between two towns isolated in southwest Kansas that are determined to walk away from this contest with the scoreboard in their favor, celebrating as the other side hangs its head in defeat.
     Not only does the winning side get the joyous feeling of being victorious over its closest neighbor, but that school gets to hoist up the hatchet, a symbol of the winner of the Dodge City-Garden City matchup since 1938.
     The hatchet has become a cult symbol in regional football lore between these two communities, and the two sides will once again butt heads tonight.
     But not only is the hatchet on the line, the winner between the Demons and the Buffaloes will claim the district championship and a first-round home game when the playoffs begin next week.

Rivalry game
     DCHS is coming off two dominating performances in its most recent games, including a 33-14 victory over Maize last Friday to help secure the Demons' spot in the 6A playoff field for the fourth consecutive year.
     Both Dodge and Garden sit at 2-0 in the district standings, both conquering Goddard and Maize in their two previous district contests. The winner in Garden tonight will get at least one extra home game during the first week of the playoffs, while the other team will hit the road.
     Demons head coach Dave Foster said this is not a game to trust how it looks on paper.
     "You know, a lot of people sit there and if they compare scores, they'd say that Garden is going to win by three or four touchdowns, but I just don't see it," he said. "I think right now, with the way we're playing, I like our chances, I like our matchups, I like the things we bring to the table. Rivalry game or not, if it was a team we'd never heard of and just seen on film, we'd like our chances."
     Garden City brings a very balanced attack that can stretch a defense out physically and mentally, but its preference is to run the ball.
     While Foster knows he must stop the run, which has been a fatal flaw in the defense in the Demons' losses, he also knows his defenders must combat the Western Athletic Conference's second leading passer: Garden's Jake Curran.
     "In the three games we've lost, it's been in all three cases, people lined up and hurt us with the run, and that's what we fully expect Garden to do," Foster said. "They're so multi-dimensional, they run and throw the ball well. The matchup between the quarterbacks is very, very even looking at WAC stats. You're looking at two very efficient quarterbacks."
     The Demons' key to success the past two weeks has been running the ball down their opponent's throats. They rushed for five touchdowns against Goddard and three scores against Maize, with junior Parker Davis accounting for six of those runs, pushing his season total to 18 on the season and tops in the WAC.
In order to beat Garden, Foster thinks his golden ticket lies within that stout running attack.
     "I think we can run the football. I mean we're a four-wide team, but in reality when we can run the ball, if you put too many people in the box, we're going to sling it and get the ball out quickly," Foster said. "That was really our identity a year ago, and we finally found it this year. What might be one of biggest advantages is that we have so many kids that can step up and make a play that it wears a defense thin."
     The Buffaloes are led by senior Gerardo Holguin, who leads the WAC in receiving yardage, which will force the Demons to bracket their coverage toward his side.
     Last time Dodge faced a receiver who was leading the WAC in catching yards, the Demon defense held him to one catch for -2 yards — a stat Foster hangs his hat on.
    "We put a lot of emphasis on stopping him and seeing where he was on the field," Foster said. "We have to make sure no one else steps into that role when we give that extra support to stop that player."
     The contest is set to kick off at 7 p.m. in Garden City, and it should be a game that will be remembered for the ages.
     As Halloween approaches, will it be more trick or treat for Dodge City?
     Tonight, all masks will be off and the show will hit center stage, as the hatchet is once again up for grabs.