BY CLINT DYE | SPECIAL TO THE LEADER
So far in 2019, the teams of the Kansas City Interscholastic Conference and the Grand River Conference have faced off a total of 12 times, continuing a long-standing, competitive series between the two small school conferences.
In those 12 contests, the KCI holds a 7-5 advantage, with the thirteenth and biggest match-up taking place this Saturday, when the Mid-Buchanan Dragons host the South Harrison Bulldogs in the Missouri Class 1 Quarterfinals.
The proximity of the schools within each conference makes for perfect scheduling opportunities to begin each football season. That also leads to exciting postseason match-ups, as most of the teams within the KCI and GRC compete in two districts (Missouri Class 1, District 7 and Class 1, District 8), leading to an eventual quarterfinal show down.
Both coaches in Saturday’s final KCI-GRC contest feel that proximity is what has made this inter-conference rivalry special.
“The GRC is such a historically great conference. Year in and year out, it is a very good conference with very good coaches and teams,” said Mid-Buchanan head coach Aaron Fritz. “With the proximity of the GRC schools to the KCI schools, it allows us to play a lot of games against each other and I think you have started to see some rivalries come about over time because the two conferences play so much against each other.”
“I think the biggest thing between the GRC and KCI head-to-head match-ups are that we are all so close together, but don’t get to play each other very often,” said South Harrison head coach Chris Schoning. “A lot of us play each other weeks one and two, but after that don’t see each other until the playoffs. I think it’s a good rivalry when the GRC and KCI meet up and gives that winning team some bragging rights for their conference.”
Entering Saturday’s contest with identical 11-1 records, Mid-Buchanan and South Harrison have more in common than just win-loss records.
During week one, Mid-Buchanan defeated Princeton 35-0, while South Harrison fell to the Tigers in the final week of the season, 20-14. That is the only discrepancy between their common opponents, as both teams earned victories over East Buchanan, Maysville, Polo and West Platte.
Both offenses enter Saturday’s contest averaging over 30 points per game and are led by a trio of playmakers.
Leading Mid-Buchanan’s offensive attack is junior quarterback Javan Noyes. This season he has combined for nearly 3,000 yards of total offense and scored 37 touchdowns. Joining Noyes in the dangerous Mid-Buchanan backfield is fellow junior T.J. Runyan, who has run for 1,107 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. Noyes's biggest threat in the passing game has been senior Christian Scaggs, who has close to 500 receiving yards and has scored four touchdowns.
“Offensively, they have a lot of weapons that they can hurt you with,” Schoning said. “Their quarterback is an all-around great athlete that can run and pass, so we are definitely going to have to do a good job of containing him and try to put him in tough situations.”
South Harrison’s offense is all about running the ball and physically imposing their will on defenses. They have three players that have rushed for over 1,000 yards this season starting with senior tailback Collin Haffey and his 1,355 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Austin Lasher has run for 1,180 yards and scored 14 touchdowns, while junior fullback Grady Linthacum has rushed for 1,043 yards with 10 scores.
“They run the flex bone on offense and are very good at creating match-up problems for defenses,” Fritz said. “They are big up front, so they get a good push all of the time and they have some very talented runners in their backfield. All of them can turn a play into a long touchdown if we aren't assignment sound and get lined up correctly.”
There is some brief history between these two teams. Since 2004, they have played four times and are tied at two wins each. From 2004 to 2007, they played each other and alternated wins, with South Harrison winning the 2007 match up, 35-6.
This Saturday, it’s the next chapter in the ongoing KCI-GRC rivalry and a bigger prize than conference bragging rights is on the line – a spot in the Missouri Class 1 Semifinals goes to the victor as they take the next step towards a possible state championship.