All the hard three weeks of work for the Dodge City Conquistadors football team will go into tonight's season opening battle against the Butler Grizzlies at BG Veterans Stadium in El Dorado.
Although many players came with Conqs' head coach Gary Thomas from the College of DuPage that finished ninth in the country, the leader of the squad said things have been busy at the college's practice field.
"We have a lot of things still to get done and get ready for thick It's been pretty hectic," Thomas said. "People have a lot of expectations, but they have to be realistic. Our ultimate goal is to battle for conference and regional titles, but it's not going to happen in a day."
The Grizzlies are ranked fifth in the NJCAA Preseason poll and haven't lost to a Jayhawk Conference team since 2009. Butler won at Dodge City 72-12 last season.
"I don't know if there's a good time to get time to get them, but I think the first time is always the best chance," Thomas said. "They're young and graduated a lot of guys and are trying to find where players are going to be for them. We hope to catch them off guard Saturday night."
Ty Suggs is the leading returning rusher for Butler with 512 yards while Hunter Vaughn and Zeke Palmer battling for the Grizzlies' starting quarterback spot. Former Ell-Saline star Tate Omli is the leading returning tackler with 79 and also had four interceptions for the Grizzlies in 2012.
It doesn't get much easier for the Conqs after the Grizzlies. Dodge City hosts No. 7 Navarro (Texas) next Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, then hosts No. 6 Hutchinson two weeks later.
"We're going to give them all we have and we hope we have is enough to win," Thomas said. "These games are like a barometer to know where we are at and where we need to go."