By TYLER HENRY
Little Apple Post contributor
The Rock Creek Mustangs (1-1) and Riley County Falcons (0-2) will enter week three of the 2022 season under different pretenses but should give the residents of the Manhattan area a good game on Friday night.
The Mustangs, ranked #5 in Class 3A, spent weeks one and two battling the #1 teams from Classes 1 and 2A, and will have an opportunity to cement their status as a true contender tonight.
“Seeing how our guys responded after playing a really good Southeast of Saline team was great,” Rock Creek head coach Shane Sieben said. “We knew they were good and they took advantage of some things but that showed us what we needed to do better and our defense really stepped up in week two.”
Riley County’s schedule has been no walk in the park as the Falcons faced #4 Rossville and a perennial power in Silver Lake, falling to 0-2 while also losing several key players to injury.
Despite the struggles in the scoring column, Falcon’s head coach Erik Willimon has been pleased with the little things he has seen from his team and remains confident that those intangibles will translate to on-field success soon.
“The scores haven’t necessarily been what we’ve wanted but I would say the best thing I’ve seen from the guys has been their effort and their attitude,” he said. “Those things have been consistently there and they're all still learning their roles. We’re gaining momentum but this stretch of three games has been tough.”
When these two take the field on Friday night, it will be the first meeting between Riley County and Rock Creek since 2019, when the Falcons won a 41-34 shootout in Manhattan.
While the prospect of a high-scoring game is attractive to the Dalton Whitworth-led Mustangs, Riley County can’t afford to play that kind of game against last year’s state passing leader.
“If we try to win a shootout with Dalton Whitworth our chances of winning diminish drastically,” Willimon said. “It’s going to be extremely hard to contain him but if we can catch a few breaks and get off the field on third down anything can happen and we’ll see if we can’t keep our offense on the field and chew up some clock.”
On the other side of that coin, Rock Creek will continue to trust in their senior signal caller, who bombarded St. Mary’s last week in a 41-20 win over the #1 team in Class 1A.
“We have to make sure that we’re all on the same page and that we’re executing offensively whether that’s running the right routes or timing things right up front,” Sieben said. “We just have to get our guys the ball in space and let them do their thing.”
With just 30 miles separating these two schools, both certainly view it as a rivalry, but with two years separating the most recent matchup, each program has nothing but respect for the other coming into this contest.
“Growing up these kids play each other a lot and I would say it’s definitely a familiar rivalry but both programs and coaches respect the heck out of each other,” Sieben said. “There’s a mutual respect between these two programs that you don’t see in a lot of rivalries but it’s definitely that.”
Kickoff between the Mustangs and Falcons is set for 7 pm at Rock Creek High School. For continuing coverage of both programs all season long stay tuned to the Little Apple Post.