ALTAMONT — Labette County (3-5) is fully cognizant of what’s in front of them.
The Grizzlies, who are the No. 13 seed in 4A East, will face the No. 4 Bishop Miege Stags (6-2) in the first round of the playoffs.
Bishop Miege, a private school juggernaut in Shawnee Mission that’s won five straight 4A state titles, is the overwhelming favorite on Friday night. It’ll be the favorite all the way through the playoffs.
For the Grizzlies, their fate is all but sealed.
“What do you do when you’re against something you know you can’t beat?,” Labette County head coach Sean Price asked. “You’ve got to fight. That’s all you can do and all you can ask. We won’t lay down. They don’t need any help to beat us.”
Labette County is coming off a 20-8 loss to Chanute in the de facto SEK League Championship where turnovers left the Grizzlies feeling like they gave a title away.
“Our kids are ready to move on,” Price said. “You don’t have a choice in life. You can have a bad day of work and you can’t take it home to family. Of course the loss was disappointing and it hurts. But you have to move on.”
Now Labette County is staring down the end of its season.
Price knows a stronger showing could’ve helped the Grizzlies, who will now face the Stags in the playoffs for the third year in a row, avoid the reigning state champions in the first round.
But that would’ve only put off the inevitable.
“There’s things we could’ve done to get away from them,” Price said. “We’re not going to blame anybody else. We know we control our own destiny and we didn’t finish the way we needed to.”
Price and the Grizzlies’ locker room aren’t under any notion that they were state title contenders this fall. But that’ll likely be the case for the entire classification once again. The matchup will always reignite the ongoing conversation about how private schools are classified by KSHSAA.
“In the state, it’s hard to tell any 4A school they’ll win a state title when Bishop Miege is there,” Price said. “That’s just what it is. But you can’t tell your kids not to fight. It’s an unfair deal. They shouldn’t be 4A, but there’s nothing I can do about that. At the end of the day, we’d face them if we advanced. We hope the state continues to look at what the coaches have said about.”
Price said he and the Miege coaching staff will likely agree to go to a running clock in the second half. With Labette County facing the end of its season, the goal is finding value in the matchup outside the scoreboard.
“The value will be how they prepared all week and how they dig down,” Price said. “If my kids go out there and are happy with how they played, then I’m happy. That’s how I view this game. We can only control what we can control.”
Kickoff at Shawnee Mission is set for 7 p.m.. The winner of Friday’s first round will face the winner of No. 5 Bonner Springs-No. 12 Eudora.