ALTAMONT — Coming off a 40-0 season-opening loss to Pittsburg, the Labette County Grizzlies hope for a reset on the road in their SEK League opener against Independence in Week 2.
Austin Jones, Labette County’s starting quarterback, will miss his second straight game after suffering an injury in the team’s jamboree. Kooper Peak, who was John Kohler’s backup last week, will get the start at quarterback against the Bulldogs.
“We’re going to see a huge difference in him,” Labette County head coach Sean Price said. “Kooper has poise in the pocket and throws a really good ball. He’s been great in practice this week.”
Peak will be tasked with trying to ignite an offense that totaled just 48 yards a week ago against a stout Pittsburg defense.
While a new quarterback will be the biggest visible change, Price has also shifted his team’s offensive line in hopes of sparking a positive trend.
“We’ve made some personnel changes on the line,” Price said. “We brought in some more size and we hopes that pays off. The kids have bought into the schematic changes we’ve made.”
The Grizzlies also hope for more production in the rushing attack. Last week, Chase Evans was Labette County’s leading rusher with 27 yards on 17 carries.
“We’ve got to move the chains,” Price said. “We didn’t have a whole lot of penalties, but our turnovers turned a great defensive night into what looked like a blowout. Our offense did not perform very well.”
Defensively, Price feels turnovers by the Grizzlies’ offense masked what was a respectable night.
“Our defense was better than the scoreboard showed,” Price said. “We had a lot of turnovers that hurt that. But our defense can play with anybody. Our issues were on offense.”
As for Independence, the Bulldogs are coming off a heartbreaking 18-16 loss to El Dorado under new head coach John Black.
“Independence played well and had a chance to win the game,” Price said. “They had their chances. Their coach has them playing inspired.”
The Bulldogs run a flexbone system headed by quarterback Brayden Coller. Labette County got a chance to defend the flexbone in its jamboree when the Grizzlies faced Iola.
“(Iola) and Independence are similar with their systems,” Price said. “So that helps with us having practiced against it. It takes a while to get used to it.”
Gap responsibility in the box has been a primary point of emphasis for the Grizzlies’ defensive gameplan.
“We worked our option responsibilities all week,” Price said. “You can’t get lost in the backfield action. You’ve got to trust your eyes, get to where you need to be and make tackles.”
Friday night gives Labette County a much more manageable opponent as Independence is facing a massive rebuild. But coming off its own lopsided loss, the league-opening tilt also serves as a litmus test.
“Every week is a reset,” Price said. “No matter if it was a great week or not, you’ve got to get back down to earth and work on the fundamentals. Win or lose, we know we’ve got to be better this week.”