Derby football preview

Last season, the Panthers left Lawrence a happy bunch after handing top-seeded Lawrence its only loss of the year in the sectional round of the playoffs.

The roles have reversed this go-around as the 9-2 Chesty Lions make a trip to face Derby (10-0) with a trip to Emporia on the line.

Don’t let sixth-seeded Lawrence fool you. The Chesty Lions cruised to a 38-21 win over third-seeded Junction City (8-2) and walloped No. 2 Manhattan (9-2) 41-22 in the sectional round.

The lone losses for the Chesty Lions came to Mill Valley and Shawnee Mission Northwest at the midway point of the season.

According to coach Clark, the Chesty Lions have found an identity under head coach Clint Bowen. The offense is led by senior quarterback Truman Juelsgaard and a handful of weapons.

“Juelsgaard is a really good quarterback. He can throw and run the ball and does a good job inside their scheme,” Clark said. “They have a tough running back that runs the ball really hard and they have some really tall receivers that we will have to keep an eye on the whole game.”

The backfield is protected with a rebuilt offensive line that is big and is comparable to the large offensive line of Lawrence Free State.

It took a four-quarter effort from the Panthers to defeat the Firebirds 27-21 on Nov. 12. The offense generated 402 yards but was limited on the scoreboard. The defense gave up 384 yards of offense on 78 Free State plays. Eliminating the big play will be key for defense this week.

“Our offensive line play and blocking with the wide receivers will be a big emphasis this week,” Clark said. “Defensively, it’s about knowing the game plan, getting into coverage and eliminating the big play.”

The Panthers suffered some injuries against Free State and will have a week to make sure players are good to go against Lawrence.

Getting healthy on both sides of the ball will be a challenge for Derby. It could be a matter of pain tolerance for many players, but the next in line will need to be ready.

Derby will have an opportunity to clinch a seventh straight state championship appearance at home in the stadium that received a significant facelift this season, but Derby fans will need to bring some energy.

“It is always good to play at home, but we really need the fans. The kids feed off the energy,” Clark said. “I would love it for our fans to show up and pack the stands because it is going to be a tough game. It is going to take a collective effort not only on offense, defense and special teams, but we are going to need some energy for our kids.”

Cody Friesen is the sports editor for the Derby Informer. Contact him with sports tips at sports@derbyinformer.com, and follow @Derby_Sports on Twitter for the latest updates. 

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sports@derbyinformer.com

Cody Friesen is the sports editor for the Derby Informer. Contact him with sports tips at sports@derbyinformer.com, and follow @Derby_Sports on Twitter for the latest updates.