The Dodge City Conquistadors football team ended the 2017 season 4-7 overall Saturday, falling 27-6 against Hutchinson.
It was the final game for the sophomores on each team, and Dodge City’s were recognized in a ceremony before the game.
One of those was Dodge City quarterback Caden Walters, who completed 14 of 33 passes with 186 yards and one interception.
Conquistador head coach Gary Thomas said the Conquistadors lost primarily because they were within the five yard-line four times, and came away with six total points.
Two of the touchdowns came on special teams for Hutchinson. Hutchinson freshman defensive back Jerry Jacobs returned a missed field goal 86 yards. In the fourth, freshman wide receiver Marcus Edwards returned a punt 53 yards for a touchdown.
“If you score one 75 percent of those drives and you cut out a special teams touchdown, you win the football game,” Thomas said. “I thought our defense played well enough for us to win today and offensively, although we did some things well at times, we didn’t do enough things well and consistently enough.”
It was also a game which was full of penalties, by both teams. In the first half, Hutchinson had 102 offensive yards, but lost 136 yards from 11 penalties. Dodge City had 67 total yards on offense in the first half, but lost 120 yards from eight penalties.
Thomas said a lot of those mistakes were more than simply execution errors.
“They’re life lesson penalties, in that when you’re personal ego or your feelings get hurt or you’re embarrassed and we act out, a lot of those penalties are acting-out,” Thomas said. “The fact is that regardless of what you choose to do in life, you know if you’re in a job and you don’t like the way things play out and you’re embarrassed and you’re gonna act out, you’re gonna get yourself fired.”
How the team has handled those types of moments, when they were embarrassed or hurt or didn’t like how things were going, is something the players need to learn Thomas said.
“That’s part of the difficulty of this level (of football),” Thomas said. “Obviously it’s not just us, it’s both sides.”
Overall, the Conquistadors had 31 more yards than the Blue Dragons, out-gaining them 237 to 206. Each team ran exactly 63 offensive plays.
The Conquistadors also had more 13 total penalties while the Blue Dragons had 12, and lost 44 yards more than the Blue Dragons on those penalties, losing 185 yards to the 141 the Blue Dragons lost.
Thomas said the coaching staff will start conduction exit-interviews this week with each player. Those meetings will include the players as well as multiple coaches such as their position coaches and their coordinators, to help the players get a feel for where they fit in with the team’s plans going forward.
Those meetings will also give the players the opportunities to air grievances and discuss their concerns as well.
Going into next year, Thomas said he wants the team to improve its composure over the offseason.
He said that probably isn’t what most coaches would say, normally opting to say they want their players to be bigger, faster, stronger or better in other ways.
Football, basketball and sports in general are emotional games, Thomas said.
“I don’t want to turn them into robots, but I try to get them to take as much emotion out of the game as possible,” Thomas said. “Not to the point where it’s not fun, and not to the point where they’re not playing hard and playing with emotion. But when you let your emotions get involved, it gets in the way of doing your job well and it gets in the way of you thinking clearly.”
Blown assignments, unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties and moments players get away from what the coaching staff has taught them can almost always be attributed back to emotions, Thomas said.
“Probably 75 percent of the time, it comes down to somebody’s emotions got in the way, whether it was pressure, whether it was frustration, whether it was being tired, whether it was fatigue,” Thomas said. “But it’s all an emotional response, and a lot of times those things are things that’ll get you beat. And especially with a young team, that’s what they’re worst at, handling and managing their emotions.”