Olpe will try to dethrone Smith Center in Class 1A

L to R: The Olpe Eagles & Smith Center's Rece Buckmaster (Everett Royer, KSportsImages.com)
By: Dylan Sherwood for Kpreps.com
Nov 23, 2018

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The Olpe Eagles could be the underdog story of the 2018 football season.

The Eagles enter Saturday’s Class 1A State title game with a 12-0 record and will be playing in their fourth state championship game and will look for their second state crown against reigning Class 2-1A state champion Smith Center.

Olpe coach Chris Schmidt said he wants his kids to embrace this week and enjoy it.

“I’m just glad for the hard work and dedication that they’ve put in over the years for the seniors and this year, in particular, starting back with camp in June,” he said. “Come Saturday, go out and give it everything they’ve got.”

Smith Center enters Saturday’s contest with an 11-1 record, with its sole loss was to Phillipsburg. Coach Darren Sasse said it’s great to be back in the same scenario the Redmen were in a season ago.

“We had a big class move on (with) a lot of talent,” he said. “I don’t know if people thought this group could get us back (to state). We never stopped believing and these guys believed in themselves.”

Olpe's early-season battles with Jackson Heights and Christ Prep have set the Eagles up for the likely challenge ahead with the Redmen. Olpe’s two closest games of the season came to Jackson Heights in week four and to Centralia in the sectional round by a combined four points.

“I thought the first part of our season this year ... (teams) were big and physical and we learned a lot about where we were at and what we needed to get better at,” Schmidt said. “I think that carried over once we got into the postseason. It’s put us in a good spot.”

The Eagles are led by junior quarterback Colby Hoelting has thrown for 899 yards and 15 touchdowns. Sophomore Kynden Robert has been Olpe’s primary back after senior Blaine Hinrichs went down with an injury late in the season. Robert has rushed for 1,058 yards and six touchdowns. Hoelting’s leading receiver is his brother, Camden, who has reeled in 315 yards and six scores.

“We’ve played teams that are (either) more pass-heavy or run-heavy,” Saase said. “They run the ball when they want to and then when you overplay the run, they’ll throw it. They put pressure on defense.”

Through 12 games, the Olpe defense has allowed fewer than six points on average.

Sasse said it all starts up front for the Redmen.

“If we don’t win the line of the scrimmage, that isn’t good for our offense,” he said. “We’re going to have to make sure to try and get people blocked, just like we do every week and see if we can get three or four yards at a pop, get first downs, execute the chains early (and) get into the end zone and finish drives.”

Smith Center’s averaging 40.8 points per game on offense and will run out of a powerful wishbone offense that opponents have struggled to stop. Hesston Maxwell (617 rushing yards), Ethan Peterson (1,184 rushing yards), Colby Benoit (1,162 rushing yards) and Trenton Colby (573 total yards) will all be threats coming out of the backfield for the Eagles’ defense. Sasse said it’ll be a challenge.

“(Olpe) has a system in place (on) offense, defense and special teams,” he said. “They just do it week after week. They’re not undefeated for anything except the fact they play hard week after week. They’re a really good defensive team.”

Schmidt said it’ll be a tall task to stop the Redmen’s offense.

“Their offense is a little bit different than what we usually see, being in that bone,” he said. “They do some different things with it, which makes it challenging. Teams have struggled with them. We’ve got to give it everything we’ve got, everybody (will need) to do their part of it. If we do those things, we feel like we’ll be in the ballgame.”

Olpe will be looking for its first state title since 2014, while Smith Center will look for back-to-back state trophies. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Lewis Field in Hays.


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