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  • Southwest Preps

Lone area team left faces rematch in 8-man DI Football semis

Two teams from the same district will face off in an KSHSAA 8-man Division I Football semifinal on Friday, and the host team is hoping for a reversal of fortune.

The visitors are looking for something its football program has never done - reach a state title game.

And when Wichita County (11-0) loads up Friday for its 7 pm showdown at Hoxie (9-1), they will hope for two things to happen - history to take place and, similar to last season, a rematch in the semifinals going much like the first game did between the teams.

The boys from Leoti have a chance of reaching the school's first state title football game ever, advancing to the semifinals for the third time in school history, and for the second straight year. The other semifinal trip was in 1990.

When the two teams met in Leoti back on September 4, it was the closest game the Leoti Indians had all season - winning 54-20 at home. It was the only game the have played this season which required a full four quarters.

In the playoffs, Wichita County has outscored the opposition, 188-22. Those 22 points came in the first round against Hill City, and the Indians have not allowed a point since.

Senior quarterback Kayde Rietzke has posted another Player-of-the-Year-type year, throwing for over 1,500 yards, completing nearly 69 percent of his passes, and tossed 30 touchdowns, plus added 1,222 yards rushing and five scores.

They've outscored their opponents, 638-96, in posting their 11-0 mark. While Jesse Gardner has been a beast at fullback (858 yards, 4 TDs rushing) and Sheldon Whalen has been a solid end for the Indians (a team-high 40 catches for 678 yards and 18 scores)+

Where the Indians are different in 2020 is on the defensive side of the ball, with five players registering over 30 tackles. Gardener has 45 through 11 games, second-most on the team, which is led by junior Waylon West (68 tackles, including a team-high 51 solo).

Hoxie, meanwhile, hasn't lost since that opener, and played one game fewer due to COVID concerns. They have also rolled through their playoff foes, outscoring the competition by a

150-42 margin.

Junior quarterback Ashton Dowell leads the Hoxie squad from his quarterback position, throwing for 1,505 yards and 21 touchdowns, and is also the team's second-leading rusher with 632 yards and 10 touchdowns. leading ground-gainer Cade Gourley also has 10 scored, while running for over 700 yards on the season.

Senior Aiden Baalman (22 catches, 583 yards, 10 TDs) leads the receiving corps, which has four receivers with at least 10 catches.

Senior Caden White has been a beast on defense, with 110 total tackles, while sophomore Derek Johnson has added 102 tackles in 2020.

This could be a game decided by turnovers. While both teams are in plus territory when it comes to turnover ratio (Wichita County is plus-9, while Hoxie is plus-7), the Hoxie Indians have fumbled the ball 10 times this season, while the boys from Leoti have only coughed up the ball once.

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