The Dodge City Red Demons do not need any extra motivation when they see that the Garden City Buffaloes are the next team on the schedule every year. The Red Demons will load up the buses for the fifty-mile drive west down Highway-50 for the 117th meeting between the two schools on Friday.
The Battle for the Hatchet has become one of the most popular rivalries in the state. For the last 77 seasons, the two schools have played for the hatchet that is given to the winning school.
After losing their first two district games, the Red Demons (4-4, 3-0) were eliminated from playoff contention. A conference title, a winning season and a chance to play spoiler are, however, on the table for Dodge City.
“A WAC championship would be big,” head coach Dave Foster said. “The hatchet is big. That’s the biggest rivalry game in the state of Kansas. Those are big enough. We’ll show up and our kids will be ready to play. As disappointed as the playoff situation is, it’s the hand that we were dealt.”
In last season’s 32-14 loss to Garden City, quarterback Caden Walters was knocked out of the game with a broken thumb in the first half. The Red Demons led the Buffaloes before the injury but without their starting quarterback, Dodge City’s offense struggled.
Walters still remembers the feeling. The senior quarterback called it heartbreaking. He felt like he let his teammates, his coaches and his community down. This season, Walters has become one of the best quarterbacks in the state and he’s ready for another shot at Garden City.
After two seasons behind center, Friday’s game will be the last for Walters as the Red Demons starting quarterback. He, along with 19 other seniors, will be playing their last game for Dodge City in the biggest game of the year.
“It’s been a great feeling being able to represent our community as the quarterback,” Walters said. “It’s a big responsibility but I like that.” The Red Demons enter their final game of the season following a 72-34 loss to Hutchinson. Garden City (7-1, 3-0) edged out the Salthawks 14-2 earlier this season. Foster knows that the Buffaloes are a good team but he also acknowledges the fact that the Red Demons will present a different challenge to the Buffaloes with their spread offense.
“They are geared toward what Hutchinson wanted to do, they are also geared to what we want to do,” Foster said. “We know what we’ll get defensively. It will be very important that we execute and we are able to run the football. If we can’t run the football, that puts everything on Caden’s shoulders.”
It is tough to predict what will happen when the two teams square off each year. One thing is for certain, both teams are always ready for the challenge.
“Rivalry games bring out the best,” Foster said. “We’ve seen some crazy things happen in this game.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Garden City.
By John Zetmeir
Dodge City Daily Globe