Sep 23, 2022

Trojans travel to Halstead for long awaited duel with Dragons

Posted Sep 23, 2022 1:00 PM

Salina Post contributor

Coverage of SES football is presented by Salina Ortho: Quality orthopedic care when you need it!
Coverage of SES football is presented by Salina Ortho: Quality orthopedic care when you need it!

In 2014 the Southeast of Saline Trojan's 7-2 campaign met a brutal end at the hands of the Halstead Dragons, who eliminated SES from the playoffs 54-13.

In 2015 another 7-2 Southeast squad dueled the Dragons, but again it was Halstead who gained the upper hand, stymying a second staight season.

Unbelievably the very next year Southeast of Saline, again 7-2, drew Halstead in the playoffs, only for a third consecutive campaign to end in agony.

More than five years have passed since that most recent meeting, and this Friday night, SES (3-0) will once again head to Halstead (1-2), this time for their district opener. 

While none of the players from those mid-2010s teams remain on the rosters, those games remain on the minds of the Gypsum faithful.

“This is another opportunity for us to go 1-0 if we can play well,” Trojan head coach Mitch Gebhardt said. “The most important game is the one we’ve got this week regardless of who our opponent is, but Halstead beat us out three years in a row and we haven’t forgotten that.”

Tensions aside, this game will also provide the #1 ranked team in Class 2A with an opportunity to continue their recent run of dominance after screaming out to a 3-0 start, outscoring their opponents by 100 points to start the year.

“I feel like we took another step forward last week,” Gebhardt said. “Obviously there are still things that we want to improve and work on but I think our defense is doing a better job of being in the right places at the right times.”

To extend the second longest active regular-season winning streak in the state to 20 games, the Trojans will need to stay sharp against a sneaky Dragon team that may very well be better than their 1-2 record would indicate.

“Halstead plays hard even under adversity and they have a really good run game,” he said. “They’re dangerous on the ground and in the air and they maintain balance. Defensively they’re fundamentally sound and we’ll have to find where we can take advantage of them.”

The Dragons have been especially strong in the secondary, where Halstead has allowed the 15th fewest passing yards in Class 2A through three games.

That unit will have its hands full with Luke Gebhardt and company who boast the third-best passing offense in the class, averaging 215 air yards per game to go along with 174 on the ground.

Statistically, Gebhardt has gotten off to a flying start of his own, completing 71% of his passes for 637 yards and six touchdowns, but has been susceptible to the odd mistake or two, tossing four interceptions so far.

On the flip side, Halstead will look to attack with a backfield that features junior signal caller Tucker Divine and senior feature back Skylar Greer. The pair has combined for just over 600 yards of total offense through three games so far.

Going into this week four matchup, the Trojan focus remains within, as Southeast looks to continue improving despite their dominant start.

“We preach ‘do your job’ every week but all of our kids need to continue living that out and we need to continue to play good team defense.”

Kickoff between the Trojans and Dragons is set for 7 pm at Halstead High School, as always the game can be heard on KINA (910 AM or 107.5 FM) or streamed with live video and audio on the Salina Post.