By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
Fresh off a 22-20 loss to El Dorado Springs, Sarcoxie coach Luke Rader is turning his attention toward Miller and a chance at the Spring River Valley championship.
You see, it has been 28 years since the Bears won a league title.
“I’m happy that the kids have been able to experience this,” Rader said. “The community has been very supportive.”
Sarcoxie (7-1, 7-0 SRV) rattled off seven straight conference victories before falling in a nonleague game. A missed two-point conversion proved to be the difference in a game the Bears committed three turnovers.
“Obviously, you’re never happy with a loss,” Rader said. “I told the kids that it’s OK that they hurt, because if you don’t hurt then you probably don’t care enough. But I think this is something we can learn from and it can make us stronger.”
Led by a strong running game, the Sarcoxie program is enjoying its best season in recent memory. The Bears have rushed for more than 300 yards per game and are scoring almost 40 points per outing. They have ran for more than 400 yards in three games.
Senior running back Logan Jones entered the El Dorado Springs game with 927 yards and 18 touchdowns on only 102 carries. Senior Ryder Cox and and junior Jade Bloss had each rushed for more than 400 yards.
“They run the ball first,” Miller coach Dustin Baldwin said. “We’ll have to try and get them out of that to make them throw the ball. We have to win first and second down to get them in 3rd-and-long situations.”
The Bears don’t throw the ball often, but when they do senior Austin Lynch is usually the target. Entering the game against El Dorado Springs, he had caught four of Sarcoxie’s six completions — two for touchdowns. Lynch added his third touchdown catch last Friday on a 56-yard scoring strike from quarterback Conner Jones.
Now, Sarcoxie will host Miller on Friday with the league title hanging in the balance.
Miller (8-0, 7-0) is coming off a 26-0 win against Greefield and will be aiming for its fifth consecutive conference title.
The Cardinals rush for about 270 yards per game and pass for about 180. Entering Friday’s game against Greenfield, Miller senior quarterback Dalton gulick completed 74 of 133 passes for 1,253 yards with 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Gulick also had 787 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Senior running back Derrick Estell added 522 yards and 11 touchdowns on only 41 carries.
Rader said he knows the game against Miller will be a challenge.
“It’s going to come down to who makes the least mistakes,” he said.
Baldwin said he is expecting a tough game against a highly-motivated Sarcoxie team.
“There’s no doubt their town, school and players will all be fired up,” Baldwin said. “Especially with them coming off a loss, we know they’ll be ready to play.”