KINGMAN – The Kingman Academy High School football team has a long trek ahead – 321 miles to be exact – for its first round 2A State Tournament contest at 6 p.m. Saturday against No. 1-seed Round Valley. The 16th-seeded Tigers (7-3) have their work cut out for them against the Elks (10-0), but head coach Dan Stroup has confidence in a team he’s coached for four years.
“These kids have been with us the whole time so they believe,” he said. “They know it’s all about us and not about the other team. We have to do what we need to do.”
The Academy last made the playoffs in Stroup’s first season when the Tigers played in Division V. That year saw the season end with a 49-0 loss to Tempe Prep. That Academy squad went 6-4 during the regular season.
The Tigers are a much better team in 2017, led by Kekoa Makaiwi-Stroup’s 1,976 passing yards, 26 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Freshman Gabe Imus is Makaiwi-Stroup’s favorite target – racking up 942 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air. Stevie Wusstig has led the rushing attack with 845 yards and 10 scores.
“Our kids are confident that they can stay with them,” coach Stroup said. “I’m sure they’ll go up there with confidence, where some teams may not. If you can steal the dance, you got their slot – the easiest way to the finals. You have to play the No. 1 team somewhere along the way.”
If the Academy wins, it would advance to the quarterfinals against the winner of No. 8 Morenci vs. No. 9 Arizona Lutheran on Saturday, Nov. 10.
However, that is far from the mind of Stroup and the Tigers as they know they have to stop Round Valley’s running attack. One advantage the Academy does have is the fact the Elks haven’t played against a passing team all year long.
“They’re going to have to make some adjustments on us too,” Stroup said. “It’s going to be whoever obviously plays better and all the typical things that win a football game.”