Galena to host Neodesha in 3A bi-district

Now that the Galena Bulldogs have capped off their first perfect regular season in eight years, they put their full attention on the postseason. That all gets started Tuesday as they entertain Neodesha in a Class 3A bi-district playoff game. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

“Anytime you get a chance to play at home, it’s great,” said Galena coach Beau Sarwinski. “It’s always nice to have your home field and home locker room. The routine at home is always nice. We hope we are playing our best football this time of the year. We feel good where our team is at. Hopefully, we can continue to play well.”

The Bulldogs closed out an undefeated regular season last Thursday with a 59-7 victory over Riverton. Not only did Galena wrap up its first perfect regular season since 2009, but it also clinched the Class 3A-District 7 championship. GHS had already locked up the CNC League crown — its first league title since 2011 and seventh title in school history.

“Winning a district title is one of our goals every year,” Sarwinksi said. “We talk about it a lot. For our seniors, it was their fourth district championship in a row. Any time you get a chance to play at home, it’s great. It’s always nice to have your home field, home locker room. The routine at home is always nice. We hope we are playing our best football this time of year. We feel good where our team is at. Hopefully we can continue to play well.”

Galena has advanced to the playoffs for a seventh straight season. In fact, the Bulldogs have now reached the postseason 13 of the last 14 years — only missing during that stretch in 2010.

This time around, GHS will take on District 8 runner-up Neodesha in a Halloween Night bi-district matchup.

The Bluestreaks have experienced an up-and-down season but head into the postseason on a high after a 54-28 victory over Eureka last Thursday. That win guaranteed Neodesha the No. 2 spot behind Caney Valley in District 8.

“Neodesha is well-coached, and their kids will play hard,” Sarwinski said. “We will have to be able to execute on offense, defense and special teams. We cannot turn the ball over.”

NHS is making a return to the postseason after a one-year hiatus. The Bluestreaks stand at 5-4 overall and finished in fourth place in the final Tri-Valley League standings behind co-champions Humboldt, Caney Valley and Cherryvale.

“I think as a coach you have to always expect to make the playoffs,” said Neodesha coach John Black. “We have a very small team this year, and we knew that it was going to be a battle up front from week to week. I think our linemen have played very good technique this year, and that has helped us open holes that probably shouldn’t have been there. If you give kids like Michael Shinkle, Blaze Grimes and Randall McKinnis a small hole, they will make great things happen.”

The Bluestreaks, who are in the postseason for the ninth time in the last 14 seasons, have played a challenging schedule, with all four of their losses coming to other teams competing in the Class 3A playoffs — Jayhawk Linn in week one (28-26), Humboldt in week three (18-7), Cherryvale in week five (49-14) and Caney Valley in week eight (47-7).

Since opening the season at 1-2, the Bluestreaks have won four of their last six games.

“We played some good competition this year and, early in the year, we had to play without some key players,” Black said. “We would have loved to have the Jayhawk Linn game back where we gave up the game on a last-second play. We should have some confidence going into the playoffs, but sometimes you don’t know if the kids keep looking back to the fact that we are small. They need to trust in themselves, and they will be alright. The main thing is that they come out to compete and give their best effort.”

Black knows his team will have its hands full against unbeaten Galena.

“Galena is a big team with speed, and they are well-coached,” Black said. “Beau does a great job with them, and they have a lot of talent. Two things you really don’t want to hear about your opponent is that they have athletes and are well-coached … and that is what we have in Galena.”

This is a rematch of a 2014 bi-district playoff in which the Bulldogs captured a 26-0 shutout win over the Bluestreaks in Galena. In fact, this is the third time in the past 12 years the teams have met in the opening round of the playoffs, with Galena winning all three matchups. The Bulldogs beat the Bluestreaks 48-6 in 2005 and 39-14 in 2011.

Galena hopes to continue a trend as it has won its first-round playoff game three straight years and in eight of its last 11 postseason appearances. Meanwhile, Neodesha won its first playoff game in its last appearance in 2015, beating Cherryvale in the bi-district round before falling to Wellsville in the regionals.

The winner of Tuesday’s contest will take on the winner of the bi-district playoff game between Wellsville (8-1) and Humboldt (7-2) in Saturday’s regional round.

Here is the full bracket for the Class 3A football playoffs:

Class 3A State Playoff Bracket