Sep 15, 2023

Undefeated League Foes Clash as SES and Minneapolis Meet in Gypsum

Posted Sep 15, 2023 3:54 PM

Lead Sportswriter - Salina Post

Salina Regional Orthopedic and Sports Medicine – Your home-field advantage starts here
Salina Regional Orthopedic and Sports Medicine – Your home-field advantage starts here

There’s little doubt that the NCAA is on the rise this season, and on Friday night two of its contenders will meet in Gypsum, with Southeast of Saline looking to cement a narrative, and Minneapolis looking to flip the script.

Two weeks into the 2023 campaign, three undefeated teams remain in the league, as SES, Ellsworth, and Minneapolis have all gotten off to excellent starts, and many expect Beloit (0-2), who made a big run in Class 2A a season ago, to bounce back.

That turnaround will be needed desperately after Southeast decimated the rival Trojans 52-6 a week ago in a contest that was over shortly after it began.

“I was impressed with what I saw out of our defense last week,” SES head coach Mitch Gebhardt said. “Beloit’s offense is awfully good, and you have to be disciplined to shut that down. We saw two completely different offenses in our first two weeks but I felt like we took a huge step forward and did an excellent job holding Beloit to 6 points.”

On the flip side of the matchup, Minneapolis appears to have taken another step forward this year and will enter this contest on the heels of two blowout wins, having ransacked Republic County and Sacred Heart by a combined score of 93-0.

“We’re trending in the right direction,” Lions head coach Tom Flax said. “We know who we’ve played and the level those teams are at but our focus each week has been to make sure we do the things we need to do to continue getting better.”

While SES has won each of the last six meetings between these two dating back to 2013, this year’s Lions squad might be the best in recent memory, and could present a real challenge to the Trojans on Friday night.

“Coach Flax and his staff do an outstanding job with those kids and I think having that continuity has worked wonders for their program,” Gebhardt said. “They’re strong on both lines, you don’t go 2-0 if you’re not, and they have really good speed also.”

Some of the Lions’ success on offense has come from a brilliant move to convert Ryan Parks from quarterback to a wideout, where he has been able to lead the team in receiving (111 yds, 1 TD), alongside a unit that now averages six yards per carry and 15 yards per reception.

“Having Ryan in open space opens things up for everybody and if we need a big play we feel like we can get him the ball,” Flax said. “Our other receivers and wingbacks get free because opponents are covering him up and they respect him as a playmaker. He’s a team player, he wants to win and he’s going to fight to help us do that whether he has the ball or not.”

Despite holding their first two opponents to just 13 points, the Trojan defense will need to take another step this week to combat the speed of a Lion team that has given their first two opponents fits.

“We need to continue to get better on defense,” Gebhardt said. “We’ve seen a pass-oriented team and a run-oriented team, now we’re up against a team that can do both so we have to be disciplined on that side.”

Meanwhile, for Minneapolis, the hurdles standing between them and their first victory over SES since 2012 will be every bit as much mental as they are physical, as the Lions gear up for battle on Friday night.

“We know what we’re going to get when we walk into Southeast of Saline,” Flax said. “We have to control the line of scrimmage, win the turnover battle, and win the big play battle. I think if we can do those things we’ll come out ahead.”

Kickoff between the Trojans and Lions is set for 7:00 on the campus of SES, and as always the game can be heard on KINA (910 AM or 107.5 FM) or streamed with live audio and video on the Salina Post.