The Dodge City Red Demons football team takes on the Haysville-Campus Colts in Memorial Stadium tonight in Dodge City. Start time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Red Demons return to the gridiron having finished the 2017 season 3-6 overall, and having lost to Derby in the opening round of the state playoffs 49-13.
It was the one common opponent the Red Demons had last year with the Colts, who lost the week before the state playoffs to Derby by a score of 48-20. According to Kpreps.com, they led Derby at halftime before Derby came back and won that game.
They beat Hutchinson early in the state playoffs before falling to Wichita Northwest in the Regional round. The Colts were a team of contrasts in 2017. They held close with Derby, but lost to Salina South in week three, a team which, according to KPreps, had lost 12 of its prior 13 games before beating the Colts. They finished 5-5 overall last season.
"When you go compare a year ago, we played Derby very similar," Red Demons head coach Dave Foster said. "We don't have a lot of similar opponents when you look at our schedule. When you sit there and look at the South score you do kind of go 'Wow, what happened there?' But honestly that's all superficial stuff because you have a whole new team and both teams do."
The Colts return a lot of key players, Foster said.
"We're excited to have the opportunity to play a quality opponent right off the bat," Foster said. "It'll definitely show us where we're at."
So do the Red Demons. Eight starters return on offense. Those include two of the team’s top three rushers last season in quarterback Beau Foster and running back Jaiel Johnson, who combined for a total of 680 yards and seven touchdowns.
They also return Seniors Marcos Fisher and Evan Darville. Fisher led the team in sacks (4), finishing second in tackles both (67) and tackles for loss (5). Darville finished first in tackles (69) and tackles for loss (7), and finished second in sacks (3).
The team lost its leading rusher last year, Dawson Williams, to graduation.
He was just one of a class that did good things for the Red Demons, but in a Kansas high school playoff matchup where tonight's game, and every other game, affects playoff seeding, the team can't dwell on what it has lost.
"I had a blast coaching last year's team, we miss the kids that graduated, but you've gotta turn a page and say 'this is a new team, what's our identity gonna be?'" Foster said. "We as a coaching staff have to figure out what our kids are good at."
The coaching staff has to figure out how to make the most of the talented athletes they have, Foster said.
"We are gonna have five or six players that you're gonna see on both sides of the ball," Foster said. "They've all practiced both sides of the ball, but we've got some extra guys that maybe aren't starting there that we think we can get reps out of. How much we're gonna run the ball, how much we're gonna throw it, how much tight-end we're gonna use, how much four-wide we're gonna use, all of those things are variations that we've got to figure figure out on the fly, and it's all relative to what our opponent's good at as well."