By TYLER HENRY
Lead Sportswriter - Salina Post
The Wamego Red Raiders kept the good times rolling last week in a dominant 49-0 win over Wellington, sending the Crusaders packing and punching their ticket to a second-straight 4A semifinal.
“Any time your defense scores two touchdowns that gives you a ton of momentum and it really does change an offense's gameplan,” Raider head coach Weston Moody said. “We changed the trajectory of that game right away and offensively we were able to take care of the football and manage the clock.”
To return to the 4A championship game for a second time in as many years, Wamego (9-2) will have to overcome a familiar foe, as Andover Central (8-3) travels to Boom Town for what should be a thrilling finale to this postseason trilogy.
These two have met in each of the last three 4A brackets, with the Jaguars getting the better of the Raiders 48-0 in 2021, but finding themselves on the receiving end of a 42-7 beatdown a year ago.
Just as they have in previous seasons, the Jaguars come into this contest with numbers that may lead the casual fan astray, after facing a steady diet of 5A foes throughout the year.
“Andover Central has played a lot of good competition and we feel like this is a pretty even matchup,” Moody said. “You can compare scores as much as you want but everybody at this point is a good team and if you make mistakes you’ll lose, it’s that simple.”
To take care of business and end a Jaguar run for the second year running, Wamego will need to find an answer for the two-headed monster of quarterback Jace Jefferson, and tailback Maddox Archibald, who have spearheaded a balanced attack all season long.
“Their playmakers are athletic and we’ll have to be prepared to defend the run and the pass,” he said. “Our guys won’t be shocked by anything, but we will have to be ready to make adjustments throughout the game.”
While Andover Central’s offense has shown flashes of greatness throughout the season, they’ve also been prone to giving up free possessions turning the ball over 17 times, and will have to be exceptionally cautious against an elite Wamego defensive unit.
“Our guys are seasoned veterans and when they smell blood in the water they’ll attack,” Moody said.
On the other side of the ball, the Raiders will have to contend with a Jaguar defense that has varied up their looks throughout the course of the year, but as with everything Wamego does, flexibility will be the name of the game.
“We prepare based on what we see on film and what we see in the numbers but until the first series or two, you don’t really know what a team is going to throw at you,” he said. “We’ve gotten better at making those adjustments throughout the season and we’ll have to be ready to adjust again on Friday night.”
Despite graduating a ton of talent, this year’s Raiders look every bit as sharp as the 4A runners-up from a season ago, and the confidence in the Wamego locker room has not wavered despite some hard lessons learned throughout their campaign.
“This team has been hardened by a few tough losses and they didn’t like that feeling,” Moody said. “But being forced to make adjustments has made us a better team and we’re pretty confident.”
Kickoff between the Raiders and Jaguars is set for 7:00 at Wamego High School with the winner advancing to the state championship game to take on either St. Thomas Aquinas (8-3), or Tonganoxie (9-2).