Football: Smoky Hill capsule

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SMOKY HILL BUFFALOES

Coach: John Thompson, 7th season

Last year: 4-6 (missed Class 5A playoffs)

League: Class 5A Creek Conference

Players to watch: Joey Tuggle, 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, RB/KR, sr.; Trent Clay, 6-4, 175, QB, jr.; Frank Thomas, 6-4, 170, WR, jr.; Skylar Sublett, 6-3, 215, TE, sr.; Dexter Bess, 5-11, 230, OL, jr. Colton Lyons, 6-2, 180, OL/LB, sr.; Chris Rogers, 6-3, 230, OL, jr.; Austin Rutledge, 6-0, 190, RB/LB, sr; Tommy King, 5-5, 140, LB, sr.; Jaylen Petty, 6-0, 165, LB, sr.

2012 Outlook: Playing in the Creek Conference is always a war of attrition and coach John Thompson finally feels better about Smoky Hill’s ability to compete for an entire season. In past seasons, the Buffaloes have often suffered a big drop off when a first-liner is out of the game or injured, but that will probably be less of a problem this season with a larger group of committed athletes. Having a three-year starter at quarterback is always a plus and Thompson has one in junior Trent Clay, who impressed in 7 on 7 work in the summer. When Clay goes to the air, senior tight end Skylar Sublett and junior receiver Frank Thomas will be frequent targets, while the ground game is geared around tough-running Joey Tuggle and hard-nosed Austin Rutledge. The Buffaloes aren’t big on defense, but Rutledge is a strong force at linebacker and seniors Tommy King and Jaylen Petty should assert themselves on every down. Tuggle was Smoky Hill’s lone first team all-conference selection last season as a kick returner and will again be a heavy factor on special teams.

Quoting the coach: “We’ve got a good group of kids, but we still have some of the same issues when you look at it from the outside: we’re not real big and not a lot of depth, but we had a great summer and the kids worked really hard. …We wanted to expand our group of committed kids and now we have about 40-45 as opposed to 25-30. We’re making progress and we do have some experience in key spots.”

Schedule (home games in all caps, played at Stutler Bowl): Friday, Aug. 31 — GATEWAY at Legacy Stadium, 7 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 7 — vs. Legend at Sports Authority Stadium, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 15 — AURORA CENTRAL, 1 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 21 — vs. Standley Lake at NAAC, 4 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 28 — CHEROKEE TRAIL, 7 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 4 — vs. Eaglecrest at Legacy Stadium, 7 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 12 — at Cherry Creek, 7 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 19 — vs. Overland at Stutler Bowl, 7 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 26 — GRANDVIEW, 7:30 p.m.

Reach Sports Editor Courtney Oakes at [email protected] or 303-750-7555