Bulldogs to face Mesa Red Mountain at Friday's homecoming game
It's appropriate that this week is Kingman High School's homecoming.
After all, the football team has been on the road four games, including the last two.
The Bulldogs (1-4) return home Friday to host 10th-ranked Mesa Red Mountain (3-1) in a Class 5A non-conference game at 7 p.m.
at Lee Williams Field.
"It's kind of a weird week.
I've never been on the road four out of the first five games.
It's never happened.
It hasn't really set in that we're even going to be here," KHS coach Ray Smith said.
"We don't have a routine.
It doesn't seem like homecoming.
It seems like just another week.
And it seems like we're going to get on the bus Friday.
"Some of the things that go on this week, like the bonfire, they always help.
Homecoming's a special thing.
It's really special for our seniors."
Senior Mike McDermott agrees with Smith.
"It doesn't feel like it did last year," McDermott said of homecoming.
"Maybe because we've been on the road so long and we haven't had the privilege of being at home."
Homecoming aside, the Bulldogs are just glad to be home.
Road trips have taken their toll on the players, especially the underclassmen.
But Friday's opponent isn't any easier.
Even though Red Mountain graduated most of its line-up, it has strong tradition of producing top-caliber teams.
"Our biggest concern defensively is that they can just knock us off the ball, that they're going to come right at us," Smith said.
"We're not expecting them to be real fancy we can't let them knock off right off the football and go eight or nine yards at a whack.
"I think that's the basic philosophy they're going to have with their big offensive line.
They have two running backs that are pretty tough.
Their quarterback is a very good play-action passer.
I don't know if he has the strongest arm, but he's definitely the most accurate we've seen."
On defense, Red Mountain has good size up front, Smith said, but hopes to keep them guessing by mixing up the offense.
The Bulldogs' passing game is becoming more effective behind the tandem of quarterback Chris Casson and wide receiver Phillip Cross.
"Defensively, they're huge up front, we think we can take advantage of some of their secondary play and throw the ball short and quick," Smith said.
"The big thing is we still have to get the ball moving and in order to do that we're going to have to get them some different looks.
"The key for us to be in the game in the fourth quarter is for our specialty teams to be better.
We did a little bit better last week but we still had a punt blocked.
We're still not getting any yardage on our punt returns or kickoff returns.
The big thing we have to do is eat up the clock."
The Bulldogs have worked this week on expanding their offense.
"We're trying to progress in the things we can attack you with," Smith said.
"We think our kids are pretty comfortable with the base stuff.
Defensively we've been working on stopping the run and stopping the run."
Smith was encouraged by the improvement this week of senior kicker Jarrod Chambers.
"It's probably his biggest week of progression," Smith said.
"He's kicking the ball well and kicking the ball far.
That could be huge for us in this game to get him into field goal range and have him knock a couple of those through because that's the type of game it will have to be for us to win."
Smith has also been pleased with the progress of some of the younger players.
"I've seen a lot of improvement from E.J.
Hurley at tackle and he played some nose guard last week," Smith said.
"But you also have to look at how many kids played both ways last week.
Injuries have got us in that situation.
Johansen he played his first real minutes the other night and I'd seen him progress at linebacker.
(Derek) Meins caught his first pass for a touchdown and did well coming up the middle."
The Bulldogs are still short-handed because of injury and academics.
The Bulldogs are still missing trio of Josh Meyer, Ben Park and Justin Casanova because of injury.
Their latest loss was senior Matt Wilks, who is out indefinitely with a knee injury.
He got hit during the loss at North Canyon Thursday.