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MVP Bumgarner steps up -10/30/2014, 10:43 AM

District up in the air for HHS -10/30/2014, 10:34 AM

Area prep football district standings -10/30/2014, 10:34 AM

A look at the area's state volleyball qualifiers in 1A Division I & II -10/30/2014, 10:34 AM

Dream season ends for K.C. -10/30/2014, 10:33 AM

TMP turns it around, headed to state -10/30/2014, 10:33 AM

Tiger volleyball falls to UNK -10/29/2014, 3:28 PM

Monarchs rally for regional win -10/29/2014, 10:10 AM

One win away for K.C. -10/29/2014, 10:10 AM

Kansas State No. 9 in first football playoff rankings -10/29/2014, 10:10 AM

Hays High soccer sees season end -10/29/2014, 10:10 AM

Tigers look to finish strong -10/29/2014, 10:10 AM

1989 WSU baseball champs reunite -10/28/2014, 10:21 AM

KC's Yost still confident -10/28/2014, 10:21 AM

Romo hurt as Redskins upend Cowboys in OT -10/28/2014, 10:21 AM

Big second half leads to HHS win -10/28/2014, 10:21 AM

CFB notes: TCU and WVU ready to take center stage -10/28/2014, 10:21 AM

Royals down, not out -10/27/2014, 10:57 AM

Earnhardt wins at Martinsville -10/27/2014, 10:57 AM

Romo showing smarts, backbone as Redskins visit -10/27/2014, 10:57 AM

Chiefs defense hammers Rams -10/27/2014, 10:57 AM

Tiger men draw, women win Sunday -10/27/2014, 10:48 AM

Hays High rallies for district win -10/26/2014, 8:35 PM

Tigers fall to No. 10 Bearcats -10/26/2014, 8:35 PM

XC roundup -- Hays High boys, girls qualify -10/26/2014, 10:57 AM

Friday's area prep football roundup -10/26/2014, 8:35 PM

K-State shuts out Texas -10/26/2014, 8:35 PM

Volleyball roundup -- TMP headed to state -10/26/2014, 8:35 PM

HHS, TMP begin regional play -10/26/2014, 8:26 PM

Phillipsburg remains unbeaten in district play -10/26/2014, 8:26 PM

Hays High volleyball sees season end -10/26/2014, 8:26 PM

Russell nabs second win, beats Monarchs -10/26/2014, 1:00 AM

Area prep FB scores, Oct. 24 -10/24/2014, 10:45 PM

Tigers win ninth straight -10/24/2014, 11:03 AM

TMP seeks first win, travels to Russell -10/24/2014, 10:26 AM

HHS, TMP play to scoreless draw -10/24/2014, 10:26 AM

Hays' Fleharty among Tigers' Hall of Fame inductees -10/24/2014, 10:17 AM

Tigers set for No. 10 Bearcats -10/24/2014, 10:17 AM

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Atwood 76, St. Francis 65

Dighton 62, Oberlin 47

Hillsboro 50, Goodland 47

Lakeside 42, Lincoln 32

Minneapolis 68, Russell 35

Rock Hills 42, Natoma 37

Salina Central 62, Andover 58

Salina South 62, Sacred Heart 47

Sharon Springs 75, Leoti 38

St. John's Beloit-Tipton 57, Osborne 34

Sylvan-Lucas 61, Thunder Ridge 48

Girls

Dighton 44, Atwood 11

Dodge City 71, Hays High 28

Hesston 51, Goodland 18

Hoisington 60, Victoria 46

Hoxie 65, St. Francis 13

Lincoln 33, Lakeside 26

Minneapolis 47, Otis-Bison 24

Osborne 59, Wilson 34

Sharon Springs 63, Oberlin 42

Sylvan-Lucas 43, Natoma 41 (ot)

Tescott 41, Rock Hills 33

Trego 56, Leoti 27

Thunder Ridge 33, St. John's Beloit-Tipton 30

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SPOTLIGHT
Game of the Week -- Smith Center incorporates new look in win

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Game of the Week -- Smith Center incorporates new look in win

Published on -9/8/2013, 10:02 AM

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Smith Center Redmen vs. Norton Bluejays

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

SMITH CENTER -- Smith Center High School senior running back Grant Lambert collected four rushing touchdowns and had a 40-yard interception return for another score.

Senior lineman Jordan Shockley recorded two sacks, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry. Senior quarterback Kody Molzahn took a vicious hit and was bleeding most of the game, but still threw for 64 yards and recovered a fumble on defense.

Smith Center ran their traditional smashmouth offense, but effectively incorporated a new pistol formation. After the game, the team gathered for its usual Redmen Circle with players, coaches and parents in the locker room. Overall, it was an ideal debut for head coach Darren Sasse in a 34-13 home win against Mid-Continent League rival Norton on Friday night at Hubbard Stadium.

"This is just the beginning," Molzahn said. "I think we are going to have a great season and this is the beginning of great things."

Sasse, the longtime junior high coach, took over for legendary coach Roger Barta in the offseason after Barta retired following 323 wins and eight state titles in 35 years.

"It's a lot like Barta," Shockley said. "It's pretty much the same thing. He kept us focused, kept us with a high motor wanting to play the game as hard as we could." Sasse coached the offensive line and was offensive coordinator for a team that recorded 295 yards, including a game-high 142 yards on 19 carries from Lambert.

"To me, it's more about them and I just happen to get to be a part of it this year," Sasse said.

Joe Drape, The New York Times reporter who chronicled the 2008 Redmen season in his best-selling book "Our Boys," brought his wife, Mary, and son, Jack, back to Smith Center for the game. Jack served as one of the ball boys and Joe Drape and Barta congratulated the team postgame.

Assistant coach Dennis Hutchinson, who coached at Smith Center 37 years and also retired last fall, was present, too.

"It just makes us feel like we are in a real special program," Shockley said. "They actually care enough to come back and watch us and give us motivation and support and everything we need to have a good season."

The usual large Redmen contingent watched Smith Center run the pistol frequently, a look that was popularized by former University of Nevada Hall of Fame coach Chris Ault. For years, Smith Center has always taken the snap under center. With the pistol, the quarterback is a couple yards deep - but not as deep as shotgun. Sasse learned the offense from Barta's son, Brooks, the longtime successful coach at Holton. Sasse put in the formation the first day of summer camp and said the team fumbled "probably 15, 20 times" before they significantly improved.

"I don't if it's the answer to everything, but we like what we are seeing," Sasse said. "Talking with Coach Brooks Barta, he thought that it gave your fullback the ball quicker, let him read maybe a little bit more, let the quarterback see a little bit more. It's kind of sped things up," Sasse admitted he didn't get much sleep last night prior to his first game as head coach for any high school team. But he thought back to Barta's words of "Enjoy the journey."

"I have really tried to enjoy today and the game and just continue to enjoy working with these young men," Sasse said.

Smith Center had eight returning starters on both sides of the ball from a 6-4 season, while Norton had two offensive and three defensive starters returning from a 7-3 squad that won the MCL.

"We had a feeling that we were going to have a lot of good experience and play pretty hard," Shockley said. "It paid off for us."

On the game's opening possession, Smith Center took an 8-0 lead on a 13-yard run by Lambert with 5 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first quarter to cap a 13-play, 86-yard drive.

On Smith Center's next possession, Molzahn drew Norton offsides on fourth-and-1 from the Redmen 29-yard line. Later in the drive, Molzahn lost his helmet after a third down play.

By rule, he had to come out for a play. However, backup junior quarterback L.T. Meitler executed a perfect fake and Lambert scored from 20 yards out on 4th-and-2.

"This is how I wanted to start the year off, and I couldn't have done it without the boys up front," Lambert said. "They did a great job tonight."

Smith Center pushed the lead to 22-0 by halftime when Lambert scored from nine yards with 5:27 left before intermission.

"We were a little flat," Norton coach Lucas Melvin said. "That's something we will try to fix also. Hopefully some seniors will step up and try to become better leaders."

The Redmen actually scored earlier in the drive on a 39-yard pass from Molzahn to junior Clint Rogers, but Smith Center was called for illegal procedure. On the next snap, Smith Center ran the same play. This time, Rogers hauled in a 35-yard catch. Lambert scored on the next play.

"I don't if they were expecting it," Sasse said. "The way they were covering it, we thought we were OK with that. There were two other routes that could have been open if they did jump that one."

Norton closed the game to 22-6 after three quarters on a two-yard run from junior quarterback Kendall Miller, but Smith Center scored twice in the fourth quarter on a 10-yard run from Lambert and Lambert's pick-six. Norton committed five turnovers and alternated signal-callers with Miller and sophomore Jordan Dole.

"I am not opposed to playing both of them, but I think it would help our offense if we could settle on one," Melvin said.

After the game, Melvin delivered a fiery talk to his team on one end of the field. Smith Center wore smiles on the other end, including Sasse, who quietly watched the celebration with his coaching staff near midfield.

"Really happy for those guys," Sasse said.

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