Special to the Grove Sun
Commerce, Fairland and Welch face key district battles at home Friday night.
* The Tigers, locked in a four-way tie for first in District 2A-8, host Kansas.
* The Wildcats host Depew in a battle of second-place teams in District B-4.
* Either the Owls or Foyil will be in sole possession of second place in District A-8 pending the outcome of their game.
Commerce suffered just its third district loss in 63 outings on Oct. 8 when Adair escaped with a 41-38 overtime victory.
“We put that game behind us,” Commerce head coach Willie Ng said. “We dug ourselves a hole. We have dug ourselves out of it the last couple weeks (with lopsided wins over Wyandotte and Salina). We feel our backs are still against the wall because there is a chance, because of the points, we could still lose out.“
The Tigers, Adair, Colcord and Kansas are all packed together with 4-1 records.
Those four will be the district’s playoff teams since Salina already has three losses.
And district points could come into play since each has taken turns bumping off the other.
Commerce is the clubhouse leader with 59 points, followed by Kansas with 45, Colcord with 44 and Adair with 31.
The Tigers close at Quapaw next Thursday while Adair hosts Kansas and Colcord entertains Ketchum next Friday.
“They’re all big and they are all crucial because we’ve got to win,” Ng said. “Destiny is in our own hands. It’s up to us.”
While the Tigers were blasting Salina — they’ve won the last two weeks by an 80-20 margin — Kansas kept pace with a 55-12 romp over Ketchum. That bumped the Comets’ record to 5-3. “They are a pretty good 5-3 team,” Ng said. “They try to big-play you but they have sustained some drives in the last couple of games. The quarterback (senior Wade Lewis) throws the ball well and they have two that run the ball well. One (senior Tyler Lankston)is a receiver where they put him in position where they can get him the football.”
“Their line looks impressive on film,” Ng said.
Former Jay head coach Eddie Barnwell is in his sixth season as the Comets’ head coach. He succeeded Fairland native Jon Hanna.
“They don’t formation-you-to-death, but they do things out of those formations that can cause you some problems,” Ng said. ‘The prep is a little different from times past when Hanna was there, but they still put a good product on the field. It will be a challenge for us.”
Commerce generated 368 yards in total offense against Salina, which included 217 on the ground and 151 yards via the pass.
It was Salina that scissored the Tigers’ 57-game winning streak last season.
Austin McMain led the Tigers ground game with 88 yards on 21 carries and two TDs while Bryson Sullivan added 85 yards on only eight carries with one rushing TD.
Quarterback Kasey Ng completed 6 of 10 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
“That was an emotional win for us,” Ng said. “Sometimes it’s tough to get the kids up two weeks in a row. I think the kids realize how serious the situation is, that we need to play well and we’ve got to win.”
While sixth-ranked Afton has already wrapped up the title in A-8, Fairland, Foyil and Porter are still in the running for the district’s other three playoff spots.
The Panthers and Fairland are tied for second with 2-1 records and Porter, which is at Afton on Friday, stands 2-2.
Oklahoma Union, idle this week, could also inch into the picture with a Porter loss and a win next week over Afton.
Kiefer clinched the B-4 title with its 21-0 decision over Welch last Thursday.
The Wildcats and Depew, which crushed Summit Christian 48-0, are each 6-1.
Depew’s district loss was a 20-0 setback against Kiefer on Oct. 8.
Summit, which hosts Welch next Friday in the regular-season finale, is in a freefall following the injury of quarterback Danny Badley.