New schedule goes from daunting to opportunistic
It's easy to see De Soto had it rough in district play by looking at the scores. The Cats were overwhelmed 35-7 in their first game, a loss to Baldwin, and 55-14 in their second, against Eudora.
Those games didn't come as a surprise considering Eudora won the small division of the Frontier League and went 8-1 in the regular season. Baldwin, meanwhile, still is playing, having won its first two playoff games.
So it doesn't come as much of a surprise that the Cats are eager for a change of scenery.
De Soto will play in a new district next season, trading in Baldwin -- playing in this season's football quarterfinals -- and Eudora, who played in last season's quarterfinal and lost two regular season games in the last three years.
In their place, the Wildcats will play St. James Academy, Bishop Miege. It doesn't exactly make the road easier, De Soto coach Brad Scott said. Just different, and that's a good thing.
"We are excited to finally be out of the Frontier League in our district games. We're ready to get some teams we haven't seen," Scott said. "Adding St. James and Miege really changes up our district."
In St. James and Miege, the Cats will get two things.
First, it means a whole lot of Catholics. Both schools are private Catholic schools.
Second, it means two developing teams instead of two powerhouses like Baldwin and Eudora.
Miege is in its fourth year under coach Tim Grunhard, a former offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs and a local sports radio personality.
His other jobs don't appear to have been much of a distraction, however. Grunhard has improved Miege from a 2-7 team in 2004 to a 3-6 squad in both 2005 and 2006, and now to a 6-4 team in 2007 still fighting in the Class 5A playoffs.
The Stags travel to undefeated Blue Valley West Friday after knocking off Shawnee Heights in overtime in the first round of the playoffs.
St. James, meanwhile, went 3-4 in its first season of varsity football. The Thunder went into the final game of their season with a chance to advance, but lost 55-21 against Bishop Ward.
Spring Hill will be the only holdover the Cats have in district play in 2008. The Broncos denied De Soto the chance to advance to the playoffs in 2006, but the Cats got their revenge with a 20-7 victory to close out 2007.
"We feel like if you look at it on paper -- all four of these teams -- we're right in there," Scott said. "We feel we have a chance to be very competitive and we're excited to get some new opponents."
The rest of the Cats' schedule is basically just juggled from the last two years. De Soto won't be rid of Eudora or Baldwin, rather just playing them earlier in the year.
The Cats will open at home against Gardner, then play host to Eudora before traveling to Louisburg, Baldwin and Paola.
Ottawa, which has made for a cushy season-opening opponent each of the last two seasons, is buried now in the sixth week.
"That's alright," Scott said. "We feel like (an easy early schedule) has hurt us the last few years. We tend to get out of the chute and play well early, but sometimes that's the worst way to start.
"You relax and think it's easy."
There won't be any relaxing in this season's first four games. Gardner, Eudora, Louisburg and Baldwin combined to give De Soto its only four losses in 2007, racking up a 189-53 advantage in the games.
Three of the teams still are playing, preparing for Friday's state playoff quarterfinals, and Louisburg remains undefeated.
"I like the fact that we're playing those tougher teams early," Scott said. "Not only will it help us see where we are, but it will help us learn what we need to work on for the end of the season."