STORY BY MAKENNA ALLEN
Welcome back, Tiger football fans. It’s been over a week since Fort Hays had its 12-game home winning streak snapped when they lost to the Missouri Western Griffons, 28-17. The loss dropped the Tigers to 0-2 for the season. However, it’s a new week and a fresh opponent.
This week the Tigers travel to Topeka to face the Washburn University Ichabods at Yager Stadium. The Tigers are looking to pull out their first win of the season while continuing their two-game winning streak against the Ichabods. The last time the teams met, the Tigers emerged victorious at Lewis Field Stadium with a score of 30-24.
For Head Coach, Chris Brown, a victory such as this is exactly what the team is looking for.
“Our kids are hungry and they want to go get something done,” Brown said.
The Tigers may be hungry but the real question is whether they will be able to overcome the challenges that await them in Topeka.
The potential difficulties begin when looking at the Ichabod team as a whole. According to Brown, the team is solid on both offense and defense.
“They play really hard,” Brown said. “They play physical, both sides of the ball. They’re very good with their run game and play action.”
This offensive success can be seen in a quick comparison of figures from the 2019 season thus far. Though it is still early in the season, the Ichabods average 33-points per game compared to 23 for the Tigers. Further comparisons can be made between the Ichabods’ average rushing yards of 190-yards per game compared to 75.5-yards for the Tigers.
Brown has been preparing his defense this week to deal with Washburn’s strong play action. However, he suggests that his team’s success lies in the effort they bring to the table.
“The thing this week that we’ve really got to focus on is we’ve got to come play hard for every single play, which I don’t think we’ve done the last two weeks,” Brown said. “We’ve got to play physical every single play and that’s something we’ve been preaching.”
After suffering losses to both Central Missouri and Missouri Western, the Tigers need to play physical to achieve their first win of the season. Meanwhile, the Ichabods look to attain a winning record as they currently stand 1-1, with a victory over Lincoln University and a loss to Northwest Missouri State.
Last week, the Bearcats defeated the Ichabods 38-17 in Marysville, Mo. However, the individual players were not without success during the game. This week, it’s up to the Tigers to watch out for these essential Washburn football elements.
Ichabods Head Coach, Craig Schurig, leads the team for the 18th year straight. He’s not the only Schurig family member to take on the Tigers this week. In fact, his son, Mitch Schurig starts this year as Ichabods’ quarterback.
The connections don’t end there either. Tigers’ Coach Brown has known the Schurigs for years and has watched the young quarterback grow as a football player.
“Just to see him grow and mature and take that position over is awesome to see because he’s deserving of it,” Brown said. “I know he’s worked his tail off to get to that position.”
As Schurig “works his tail off,” he’s also working his way into Washburn football history. This week, the junior quarterback starts off the game against the Tigers just two touchdown passes away from a position in the top 10 of the program’s history. Even with the loss to the Bearcats last week, Schurig has worked his way up to 22 touchdown passes in his career.
The game against the Bearcats proved to be successful for more than just Washburn’s quarterback. Defensive end, Will Jones, linebacker, Grant Bruner, and defensive back, Kevin Neal Jr., all set personal career highs in tackles during the game. Wide receiver, James Letcher Jr., had a career-high of eight catches and 113-yards. Finally, Collin Wilson also marked a career-high in receptions.
Despite all of this, the greatest threat presented by the Washburn team may not be its players. Indeed, Brown stresses the impact of the practice-like environment in Yager Stadium.
“I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s because it’s down in the bowl or it just seems like it’s really quiet. It’s just a different atmosphere,” Brown said. “It just lulls you to sleep a little bit. It’s more of a practice atmosphere than a game atmosphere. That’s something we’ve got to overcome.”
Brown hopes that the driving force behind his team will be the desire to win their first game of the season. This intensity must be present as the Tigers seek to overcome their week three opponent.
“I told them yesterday in practice that there’s two things I can’t control: how hard you play and how physical you play and the only thing that can control that is you,” Brown said. “If we can bring both of those things to the table this week, I think great things are going to happen for this team.”
Where to Watch:
If you’re ready to watch some physical Tiger football, MIAA Network subscribers with a season pass can tune in as usual. The Tigers kickoff at 1:00 p.m. in Topeka, Ks..