The Dodge City Red Demons take on the Garden City Buffaloes in the 81st Annual Hatchet Game Friday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Dodge City’s Memorial Stadium.
Dodge City comes in off a massive come-from-behind win against Hays last week 34-33, a game in which the Red Demons trailed 20-0 at halftime.
It was the Dodge City’s first win in three games, and brought the Red Demons to 3-3 overall. The Red Demons are 1-2 in the last three.
Garden City was blown out by a strong Wichita Northwest team 61-15. Like Dodge City, Garden City narrowly had escaped against Hays, having held off a late rally Sept. 21 to win 35-28 before beating Liberal 32-6 Sept. 28.
The Red Demons will try to reverse some recent history in the Hatchet Game. Dodge City lost 40-9 in 2017 and 36-13 in 2016. The last time Dodge City won was in 2015, when the Red Demons won 21-20 at Garden City. Overall, the Red Demons have been outscored 96-43 the last three years.
Part of what caused the team issues in 2017’s game was Garden City senior quarterback Garret Doll. This year, Garden City has been led by junior quarterback Carlos Acosta.
Dodge City head coach Dave Foster said the two really aren’t that different.
“They’re both very quick and agile and throw the ball well,” Foster said.
The Buffaloes also bring a lot of size to the matchup.
“They’re focus is their run game but they’ve got some good skill kids that they’ve hurt (teams) over the top because you’ve got to commit to the run with numbers,” Foster said.
The Buffaloes will put two or three blockers in at the point of attack, forcing defenses to put extra players in the box to stop the run, which can leave defensive backs in one-on-one coverage.
“Our response to that is to see how many people we’ve got to put there, and roll the dice hoping we can cover them in space,” Foster said.
A major key to the game will be turnovers, something that has been more of an issue this season than last.
“(If) you want to win football games you’ve got to win turnover battles,” Foster said. “That’s been obvious and when we’ve had our struggles we’ve lost turnover battles. So obviously our thought process is try and take care of the ball, try to make good decisions on the concepts and the pass game that we’re trying to move the ball around with.”
It’ll be a game neither team can afford to lose. The Red Demons are currently slotted in the No. 10 spot in the 6A West Regional, and are ranked lowest of the teams that are 3-3 overall. Garden City is the second of four teams that are 2-4 overall.
According to the Kansas State High School Activities Association website, ties are resolved first by win-loss percentage, then by head-to-head games, then point differntial with a maximum of plus or minus 13 per game.
A Garden City win would make both teams 3-4 overall and could cause Garden City to have a better playoff position when the seasons end.
A Dodge City win would make them 4-3 overall and could put the Red Demons in a position to secure a home playoff game when they face Liberal Oct. 19.