By CLINT DYE • Leader Sports Reporter
When the East Buchanan Bulldogs (2-2) and Plattsburg Tigers (3-1) meet this Friday in Gower for their annual rivalry clash, Bulldogs head coach Kevin Bryan will be standing with his team on the home sidelines.
As one of the longest-tenured coaches in the KCI Conference (only Lawson’s Todd Dunn has been with his team longer), Bryan has seen everything this rivalry game has to offer. He’s seen the blowout victories like in 2010 and 2014. He’s seen the tightly-contested nail biters, as was the case in 2012 when the Bulldogs escaped with a 42-41 victory, and even though he wasn’t on the sidelines (battling cancer kept him from coaching the game), he’s felt the tough losses like the 28-6 defeat in the 2016 Class 1, District 7 Championship.
Since Bryan took over the East Buchanan program in 2007, the Bulldogs are 11-3 against their Clinton County rivals, and as always, he knows how important this game is for his players and the community.
“This rivalry is so special because the kids know each other so well and the community members have probably competed against each other,” Bryan said. “Both teams have a rich football tradition and they want to continue to have bragging rights for the next year.”
Across from Bryan on the visitors’ sideline Friday night, making his debut in the Clash of Clinton County, will be Plattsburg Head Coach Ross Rosenbaum.
As the newest and youngest head coach in the KCI Conference, Rosenbaum has brought a renewed attitude and a sense of toughness to the Plattsburg football program – something desperately missing a year ago.
In his first year as a head coach, Rosenbaum has the Tigers playing with a ton of confidence and momentum, entering the game with a 3-1 record, a mark they haven’t achieved in over a decade. He knows a win over one of their fiercest and most historical rivals would be a huge building block as they enter the second half of their season.
“It’s exciting to be a part of a game that goes back several years and that means so much to everyone. I know what it means to the people of our town and theirs as well,” Rosenbaum said. “These are two schools that go after each other in every sport, and football is one of the biggest. It’s certainly a different feel when we play East Buch. The players are locked in because they want to come out on the right side of this one. I’m ready to go lead these guys Friday.”
The most intriguing thing about this year’s meeting of the Bulldogs and Tigers is just how similar the two teams have been. In most years, this contest would be an extreme contrast in styles when it comes to the offensive approach, but that is not the case in 2019.
East Buchanan has long been the spread out, air attack of the KCI Conference, but this year they have adopted a run-first, run-often mindset through their first four games. A plethora of Bulldogs has carried the ball out of the East Buchanan backfield, with seniors Tucker White and Owen Fortney setting the tone. Through four games, White has rushed for 394 yards while Fortney has rushed for 252 yards, with seven rushing touchdowns between them.
“They have some talented kids on their team. We have to be prepared to stop several different guys,” Rosenbaum said. “They have a few guys they put in the backfield that run it hard. When you try and stack the box on them, they can beat you through the air, as well. It’s going to be a tough task to find the balance on defense to slow them down.”
A year removed from a failed attempt by the previous coaching staff in implementing a spread-it-out, air-it-out approach like East Buchanan, Plattsburg has gone back to the roots of what historically has made it a formidable program – power running.
Spearheading the Tigers’ ground game is Austin Rankin. So far this season, the hard-running junior has rushed for over 600 yards and has scored six touchdowns. His play, along with the play of his offensive line, is something Coach Bryan knows will be a tough challenge for his Bulldogs’ defense.
“They are huge up front and they do a good job of getting into their man and keeping with their blocks,” Bryan said. “Then when you put a good back like Rankin behind them, it is a load to stop.”
If the Bulldogs concentrate too much on Rankin, senior Isaiah Graham can easily make them pay from the quarterback position.
Since 2016, East Buchanan has rattled off three wins in a row (they defeated Plattsburg twice in 2017) in the rivalry. Each game has been highly competitive, and each time Plattsburg went into the rivalry tilt with a coach in his first year leading the way.
Either Coach Rosenbaum, the new blood of the KCI, will end the Tigers’ current losing trend against the Bulldogs, or Coach Bryan, the old guard of the KCI, will notch yet another victory under his belt over the Tigers. Either way, the 2019 Clash of Clinton County is shaping up to be a good one.
Leader Sports Reporter Clint Dye
1. Lathrop (4-0) LW1 – Mules handled Hamilton for the third year in a row with relative ease. This week they travel to play West Platte. Judgement Day the following week at Lawson looms large.
2. Lawson (3-1) LW2 – Pitched an impressive 35-0 shutout at Plattsburg in week three. Offense is getting going at the right time. This week they travel to play winless North Platte. Gearing up for rivalry showdown with Lathrop in week six.
3. Mid-Buchanan (3-1) LW3 – Dragons bounced back in style with a 53-6 victory over North Platte. This week in the KCI Conference Game of the Week they hit the road to take on a Hamilton team who will be seeking revenge from their playoff loss to the Dragons in 2018.
4. Hamilton (2-2) LW5 – Lost at rival Lathrop last week, so far this season the Hornets have alternated wins and losses. Looking to continue that trend this Friday in a big-time showdown with Mid-Buchanan at home.
5. Plattsburg (3-1) LW4 – Shutout loss at home to Lawson drops the Tigers one spot this week. Offense struggled to get going against the Cardinals. This week they travel to East Buchanan for the Clash of Clinton County. On paper this might be the closest match-up of the week.
6. East Buchanan (2-2) LW6 – Tucker White got the offense going in their win over West Platte. Now that it seems they have found their QB, Bulldogs welcome in a Plattsburg team hungry to bounce back after tasting defeat for the first time in 2019.
7. West Platte (1-3) LW7 – Gave East Buchanan a fight which they always seem to do but came up short. Their reward, a home game against Lathrop.
8. North Platte (0-4) LW8 – Ran into a Buzzsaw in Mid-Buchanan last week, this week they host a Lawson team gearing up for their week six showdown with Lathrop.
Leader Editor Brett Adkison
1. Lathrop (4-0, LW: 1) – Chris Holt won't let his football team look past West Platte this week, but that road trip to Lawson looms just a week away for the Mules.
2. Mid-Buchanan (3-1, LW: 2) – The Dragons are 3-0 and have outscored their opponents 130-6 when they play teams not named Lathrop.
3. Lawson (3-1, LW: 3) – Handed Plattsburg their first loss of the season. Stephens is a force.
4. Plattsburg (3-1, LW: 4) – The Tigers stay at four this week, but crucial contests against East Buchanan and Hamilton will tell Plattsburg's story over the next two weeks. This isn't the kind of team that will shrink away after a loss to Lawson.
5. Hamilton (2-2, LW: 5) – For the third-straight year, Hamilton was unable to upend Lathrop. Their two losses this season have come against teams who are 4-0. Game against Mid-Buchanan this week is huge.
6. East Buchanan (2-2, LW: 6) – Took care of business against West Platte, but a Homecoming win against Plattsburg would be rocket fuel for this squad.
7. North Platte (0-4, LW: 7) – The Panthers can't catch a break. Their four losses are against teams a combined 13-3 this season, and they'll be welcoming 3-1 Lawson to Dearborn on Friday.
8. West Platte (1-3, LW: 8) – Might not have much hope against state-ranked Lathrop this week, but the Tobacco Stick is up for grabs in two weeks when they play North Platte.