10/31/2013 6:00:00 AM Lee Williams, Kingman Academy meet to make history
Kingman Academy senior running back Pryce Portillo runs against Greyhills Academy Oct. 18. The Tigers will host Lee Williams Friday night.
Matt Hollinshead Miner Staff Reporter
KINGMAN - You won't have to turn your television to ESPN to watch primetime football. Southside Park will provide that quality entertainment live, Kingman style.
Kingman Academy and Lee Williams High School will square off at 7 p.m. Friday for the city's first in-town high school varsity football game - and it will be an emotional night for one individual by the name of Eugene Kramer.
Kramer coached KAHS in 2010 and 2011 before taking the job at Lee Williams High. Ray Smith, Kramer's assistant at Kingman Academy, is now coaching alongside Kramer at Lee Williams.
"We're excited about it. We're excited for the opportunity," Kramer said. "It's nice to have an away game four blocks away rather than drive four-and-a-half hours somewhere.
"In one sense, it's going to be very hard because the seniors were freshmen and sophomores when I was there. They're great kids. It's going to be hard to coach against them, but it's something I have to do. It's just the nature of the beast. It's going to be a bag of mixed emotions for me."
Prior to the 2011 season, Kramer brought current Tigers head coach Wally Mueller up from the middle school to help assist varsity football. After former Tigers coach Doug Odum resigned six games into the 2012 season, Mueller took the reigns full-time.
"It's got a unique twist to it," Mueller said.
Kramer helped start the interscholastic careers of many players familiar to the Kingman Academy sports community, including seniors such as quarterback Austin Tomlinson and running back Westin McCord.
"Austin Tomlinson, he is probably the best athlete within his region, hands down, in every sport. We're going to have to do everything we can to contain the kid. Austin's very shifty, and he's got a great head on his shoulders," Kramer said.
After the torch was passed on to him, Mueller continued bringing out the best from KAHS' current upperclassmen.
"We were very pleased with what Kramer did when he was here. He was a big factor in bringing these kids up, fundamental-wise," Kingman Academy principal/athletic director Jeff Martin said of Kramer. "Friday night is our senior night, so it's a culmination of four years those kids have spent working hard. It's going to be a neat night. I expect a packed house. No matter what, the emotions are going to be up."
Martin did consider moving the game to a neutral location, such as Kingman High School.
But he had his reasons for choosing Southside Park as Friday's venue.
"We want our kids to end on where they started. That's very important for us," Martin said.
Lee Williams (3-6) has momentum on its side, winning back-to-back home games. They outscored Pinon High School and Sedona Red Rock High School 70-30 combined.
A big component to their recent success has been their 1-2 punch at the running back position in sophomores Dallas Morgan (a power runner who can start breaking down opposing defenses) and Jason Ruiz (a slasher who can pick up the pace in the ground game, when necessary).
"I'm excited for it. I want to see the outcome between two rival teams. I'm pumped," Ruiz said. "I don't know anything about (Kingman Academy). I'm just going to go up with what I have.
"I'm going use the skills I've learned over the years."
Kingman Academy (4-5) believes full health and upperclassmen experience can make a difference.
"Of course I'm excited for it. I'm stoked for it. We just can't get hot-headed," Tomlinson said. "Lee Williams, they'll come out and play. They beat Sedona. We're going to be ready to come out fighting."
There are numerous ways you can analyze this particular match up: Can Kingman Academy's offensive line give Tomlinson, the wide receivers and backfield breathing room to dominate? Can LWHS' Morgan and Ruiz start breaking down KAHS' defensive front early?
How will Eugene Kramer do coaching against his former squad?
That should make Friday night memorable.
"It's history for the town," Mueller said. "In all honesty, it's a win-win for Kingman. I think there will be a good crowd there."