Photo by Beau Bearden.
KINGMAN – The City Championship is finally upon us.
The Kingman Academy and Lee Williams high school football teams square off at 7 p.m. today for the prized title, but neither team is building up the matchup more than it needs to be.
“It all just starts by having a good week of practice,” Volunteer Kael Juelfs said. “This game is no different than the other. You just have to come with the same energy everyday just like any other game. That’s the key to any success right now.”
Tigers quarterback Kekoa Makaiwi-Stroup feels the same way, saying that it’s fun to play a crosstown rival, but it’s just another game. That mentality starts from the top and Academy head coach Dan Stroup has made that the focus during practice.
“We don’t hype up any game more than the other because that allows inconsistency of play,” he said. “In the back of the kid’s minds, is there a little bit? I’m sure, probably more than the coaching staff. To me, it’s just another opponent. That’s my philosophy.”
That attitude doesn’t change on the other sideline as Lee Williams head coach Clint Sasse is excited for the City Championship, but is treating it as just another Friday night.
However, that doesn’t mean the Volunteers (2-0) aren’t aiming to come away a victory.
“We’re more focused on winning three in a row since we haven’t done it for three years,” said Lee Williams’ Matt Shaw. “It’s not about the City Championship, it’s another game of playing hard and hitting the other team.”
The Academy (1-1) has yet to tally a victory against Lee Williams, but just fell short last season in a 12-7 loss.
The Tigers know that the Vols have a small advantage in depth, but they won’t use that as an excuse.
“They’re definitely going to have a lot more lungs just because they have a couple more guys,” said Academy’s Kannon Butler. “We have to work a little harder during the week. We’ll play hard and it’ll be a good game.”
Each team will enter tonight’s contest with momentum, as Lee Williams defeated Dysart 22-10 last Friday and the Tigers cruised to a 48-6 victory over Kingman High.
While the game itself is special for the city, it is also a great experience for the athletes.
“It’s just exciting because we get to go under the lights and play another Friday night game,” Butler said. “… We’re happy to be able to play them because they’re our friends, our buddies and we know them.”
The familiarity between the two squads is sure to create a great atmosphere and an exciting football game, but coach Stroup knows that the next couple of weeks are even more important for each team.
“I hope it’s a big crowd for both teams and no one gets injured and moves on,” he said. “We both have our region games coming up after this freedom game. It’s important to win, but you need to win your region. You have to focus in on that.”