Rivals Salina South, Central ready for Friday Night Live

Salina South & Salina Central before last year's coin flip. (Photo by Yee Mar)
By: Mark Schremmer for Kpreps.com
Oct 16, 2014

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The Salina South and Salina Central rivalry is the type of game that would draw a huge crowd no matter when it was being played.

But having two of the top teams in Class 5A open district competition against each other adds significance to this already heated rivalry.

The Cougars and Mustangs will face off in this week’s edition of Friday Night Live. The Ark Valley Chisholm Trail – I matchup will kick off at 7 p.m. Friday. It will be televised statewide on Cox Channel Kansas. It will be re-televised at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 and 7 p.m. Oct. 21.

Broadcaster Mark Ewing will be joined in the booth by former Salina Central and Kansas Jayhawks standout Jake Sharp, as well as Salina South athletics director and former head coach Ken Stonebraker. Leon Liebl will report from the sidelines.

“The game means a lot to the kids,” Salina Central coach Mike Hall said. “It means even more that we’re playing them district game No. 1. We want to be district champs, and you don’t want to be 0-1 in district. It’s big for being game one in district. It’s big for being a rivalry game … It doesn’t matter who on paper is the better team.”

Salina South (5-1) is ranked No. 3 in Class 5A, while Salina Central (4-2) sits just outside the top five of the Kpreps.com poll.

“It’s always a big game and it’s got all the clichés for bragging rights and all of those things,” Salina South coach Sam Sellers said. “The biggest difference is the outside people. When it’s South-Central week, the kids and community are all asking about it.”

Salina Central will be looking to end a three-game losing streak to its rival.

The Cougars rumbled past Salina Central 55-27 last year, but the games have traditionally been close. Salina South edged the Mustangs 23-20 in 2012 and 44-41 in 2011. Salina Central last won the rivalry game in 2010 with a 31-28 victory.

Salina South dropped its first game of the season this past Friday with a 45-14 loss to defending Class 6A state champion Derby. The two teams were tied at 7 at halftime, but Derby exploded for 38 second-half points.

Quarterback Dalton Wassenberg, who is 6-foot-6, directs the Salina South offense. He has completed 54 of 94 passes for 997 yards with 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also has rushed for 203 yards and eight touchdowns.

“He makes excellent decisions,” Sellers said. “Only one of his interceptions was a bad throw. He’s a great leader on the field, and he commands the offense.”

Junior Dylan Becker has been Wassenberg’s favorite target with 22 catches for 550 yards and eight touchdowns.

“His speed is what makes it hard,” Hall said. “If he catches it, and you’re not right there then he’s going to score. To put it in perspective, he’s got 22 catches and eight of them are for touchdowns … We’ll definitely have our coverage on the top side so that if he does catch it that we can get him on the ground.”

Salina Central enters on a four-game winning streak. The Mustangs opened the season with losses to Lawton, Okla., (49-3) and Derby (35-14), but bounced back to beat Maize (29-28), Goddard-Eisenhower (37-15), Haysville Campus (49-0) and Hutchinson (27-12).

“We really hang our hat in getting better each week, and it’s really showed the past two seasons,” Hall said. “We played two really good opponents to start the year. Some people questioned why we were scheduling those people, but I think it’s only made us better.”

In the win over Hutchinson, Salina Central running back Dalton Peters rushed for 209 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. He also caught three balls for 65 yards. For the season, the 5-foot-8, 171-pound Peters has rushed for 1,127 yards.

“He just runs his butt off,” Sellers said. “You can’t arm tackle him, and he doesn’t quit until they blow the whistle. Salina Central has gone back to the old Pony Express days of Jake Sharp and Donnie Anders this year. They’ll give him 30-35 carries a game. You know what they’re doing, but you still have to stop it. He’s a very good back.”

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