Pregame Outlook —

Mustangs must find offensive footing

Iola takes on Coffeyville’s Cordray & Co. in SEK play

By JOCELYN SHEETS
Register Sports Editor

Register/Jocelyn Sheets
A year ago Iola High’s Mustangs were able to put pressure on Coffeyville Field Kindley High quarterback Ethan Cordray (11) throughout the game. That harassment helped the Mustangs beat the Golden Tornado in Iola. On Friday, the Mustangs are in Coffeyville to face Cordray and the Golden Tornado.

Two things have to happen for Iola High’s Mustangs Friday night on the road for them to have an opportunity to post a Southeast Kansas League victory.
Find their offensive footing is No. 1. And No. 2 is to put pressure on and contain Coffeyville Field Kindley High’s Ethan Cordray.
Cordray, the Golden Tornado’s 6-2, 185-pound senior quarterback, leads a potent offensive attack. Last Friday, Cordray was 12 of 21 passing for 281 yards and three touchdown passes to junior wide receiver Cam-eron Craig in Coffeyville’s 41-40 win over Columbus. Cordray rushed for 63 yards and one touchdown.
Iola comes off a disappointing home loss, 28-10, against Independence. The Mustangs defeated Coffeyville 38-19 in Iola last year. The teams are 2-2 in the past four games.
On Friday, the Mustangs (1-2 SEK, 1-3 overall) go to Coffeyville for a 7 p.m. kickoff in Veterans Memorial Stadium. The last Iola win at Coffeyville was in 2005, 32-6.
“Our kids have come back this week and worked hard. We all know we have work to do to get better,” said Rick Horton, Mustang head coach.
“The problem with this week has been injury and illness. Although our school hasn’t been hit like Chanute, we only had about 30 bodies — seniors through freshmen — to practice with this week.”
Two injuries have left the Mustangs thin at defensive back, which is not a good thing going up against Coffeyville’s Craig, 6-foot and 175. Jerrik Sigg suffered a broken leg in the Osa-watomie game, leaving a wide receiver spot and defensive back spot open for the Mustangs. Then last week Iola’s starting tailback and corner back Marcus Sullivan strained a hamstring.
Drew Walden moved from wide receiver — he was replacing Sigg — to starting tailback in the first half of the Independence game. Ethan Fulton, who went in last week in the receiver spot, will start as receiver Friday.
“Drew did a great job last week in the first half and Ethan has stepped up and filled in well,” Horton said. “Right now, it’s about us getting better at what we do. Yes, we know what Coffeyville is capable of and what we need to do against them.
“The key is to contain Cordray, put pressure on him and don’t let him run the ball on us, plus we have to always be aware where Cameron Craig is at on the field.
“On the final play of their game last week, Craig got behind everybody and Cordray hit him with a 79-yard pass play that scored the winning touchdown. We cannot let that happen.”
Coffeyville is coming off the dramatic win over Columbus but the Golden Tornado players had the same situation a week earlier against Labette County, only to lose.
“We needed the win over Columbus like that after losing on the last play against Labette County,” said Rich Giesen, Coffeyville head coach. “Our kids came in ready to prepare for Iola this week. They know Iola plays hard and remember Iola beat us last year so it doesn’t matter what the records are.”
Giesen pointed to special team play as a key to the game Friday night. He said Iola’s kicker — senior Connor Frazell, who kicked a career-long 50-yard field goal last week — was a big factor because of his kicking range and his ability to pin teams deep with a kickoff or a punt.
“Plus Iola does a good job putting pressure on against a punt. They block punts. They’ve had a kickoff and a punt returned for touchdown. We don’t have a placekicker like Iola’s but Cameron Craig has done a good job returning kicks for us,” Giesen said.
Giesen said Coffeyville’s big offensive line has allowed Cordray and running backs Isreal Smallwood and Jeff Brown to run the ball well. He said both Smallwood and Brown are hard runners.
“We’ve always been able to have big guys up front and we’re still pretty young along the line. Aaron Stansbury, our center, is the only senior that starts. But Coach Horton does a good job with his defensive and offensive schemes to counteract Iola’s lack of size up front,” Giesen said.
“We just have to be prepared and ready to play Friday night.”
Speaking of play on the line, Horton points to that as what will help Iola’s offense get better. The Mustangs have rushed for 336 yards on 125 carries in their four games and have 276 yards passing. Sigg, who was and still is Iola’s leading receiver, is out and so is Sullivan who has 240 yards on 70 carries on the ground and five rushing touchdowns, plus a kickoff and a punt return for touchdowns.
“We have to have more consistent play up front and our offensive linemen know that. Last week with Drew running the ball, we had one really nice drive where our guys were pushing Independence right off the line of scrimmage. But in the second half, we didn’t do that,” Horton said.
“We also have to limit turnovers and penalties and be aware of down and distances. Those types of mental mistakes we have to eliminate to be successful.”
Frazell is taking Sullivan’s spot as corner back this week. Horton said Clint Heffern, a sophomore, also is expected to play defensive back this week. Sullivan might be cleared to practice by Friday but Horton said he didn’t want to hurry the tailback back into the lineup.
“We want him healthy for district play (which starts Oct. 16) and have him full force for a playoff run.”