Oftentimes, when the season is winding down and teams have been eliminated from postseason consideration, pundits use the phrase, “Nothing to play for.”
Just don’t let a coaching staff hear that phrase.
Technically, the Winfield High School football team was eliminated from the playoffs with last weekend’s 29-14 loss at Ulysses, leaving the Vikings with a 2-6 record, 0-2 in Class 4A D-I District 5.
The Vikings play host tonight to the Mulvane Wildcats, who have already clinched the District 5 title and a Class 4A State home playoff game. The Wildcats (5-3, 2-0 District 5) hold head-to-head tiebreakers over Ulysses (1-1) and Wellington (1-1). Those two teams play tonight at Wellington, with the winner advancing to the Class 4A State playoffs and a first-round road game.
Even with a victory tonight against Mulvane, the Vikings would only be 1-2 and have lost to both Ulysses and Wellington.
That doesn’t mean there is nothing to play for.
“As coaches, we need to make sure that we have good energy this week in practices and that would transfer over to the kids,” WHS head coach Linn Hibbs said. “That falls on us first. We have to do our jobs and we have to get our kids as prepared as we can get them prepared.”
For 10 WHS seniors, there is much to play for. Kyle Sawyer, Caleb Weathers, Izzy Amezcua, Jayden Tate, Gavin Crowe, Ben Bradbury, Riley Elkins, Conner Greenlee, Cutter Brazle and Austin Tapia are seniors listed on the Winfield roster who will suit up for the final time as Vikings.
“If they’re keeping score, it’s important. I don’t care what you’re doing,” Hibbs said. “We really have nothing to lose. Hopefully, our kids will go out, play hard, have some fun and see what happens.
“Being a new coach coming in, its hard. I appreciate the time and effort they’ve put in this program,” Hibbs said. “I think we’ve made some improvement from year one to year two. It’s really appreciated.”
Junior Jack Mull, a two-way starter at tailback and strong safety and Winfield’s leading rusher, will miss the game due to a knee injury suffered last weekend at Ulysses.
“We’ll miss him. He’s our leading rusher and a good player on defense,” Hibbs said.
“Obviously, it’s our seniors’ last game, but for our sophomores and juniors, maybe we can see something (for next year).”
Mulvane ended District 5 play sporting a 3-3 record, but the Wildcats set themselves up nicely with back-to-back district wins against Ulysses (40-14) in Week 7 and Wellington (35-7) in Week 8.
The Wildcats also have quarterback Jayden Price back after an injury suffered earlier this season. Price completed 5 of 10 passes for 60 yards, with two interceptions last week against Wellington, but carried the ball 18 times for 145 yards and four touchdowns.
Cole Diffenbaugh added 105 yards on 20 totes as the Wildcats piled up 341 yards of total offense.