After a thrilling comeback overtime victory in overtime against Washburn Rural last week, Junction City has a 3-1 record and two-game winning streak.
On Friday, the Blue Jays will host Topeka West (1-3) as they aim to stay in the hunt for a good seed in the playoffs.
Even with as young as this Junction City team is, head coach Randall Zimmerman is not surprised that his team is off to a 3-1 start.
“We always expect to be at your very best,” Zimmerman said. “I am very pleased to be where we are at, for sure. Especially after stumbling to Manhattan in week two and as tough a road as we have had. We had four really good teams to start off the year. I am just pleased we have been able to earn a couple of wins in these past two close (games).
Junction City will be shorthanded as senior starting quarterback David Rowell will be unavailable due to injury.
“It is what it is,” Zimmerman said. “He is a great, great kid. We lose tremendous senior leadership. He is just an outstanding person. That glue that holds us together. Now it is time for other kids to step up.”
A roster that is mostly young and inexperienced – now with senior Rowell out – is feeling confident after two momentum comeback wins.
“(Seaman and Washburn Rural) are confident, momentum building wins,” Zimmerman said. “A really good team in Topeka Seaman and Washburn Rural – they are both outstanding teams and well coached. Come-from-behind: or kids never gave up against Topeka Seaman. Against Washburn Rural, we were making way too many mistakes as far as penalties and things like that.”
“In the end, our kids were able to make plays to win that game. Defensively, against Washburn Rural and Topeka Seaman we were outstanding. Holding to field goals instead of touchdowns in the redzone. Defensively, we are way ahead than our offense. But I think we are catching up and gaining some confidence.”
The defense has been strong for the Blue Jays but the offense has struggled at times. Other than some break-out plays in the second half against Seaman, it has been difficult for Junction City to produce offensively. Junior running back TJ Jones has been the main bright spot on the offense.
“We have gone against two very good defenses – very aggressive,” Zimmerman said. “They really bring a lot of people at you. Offensively, we need to quit making mistakes. We have really good plays going. We have had good drives that we have put together against these good opponents. At Manhattan it was turnovers. At Seaman it was a couple turnovers plus penalties. Last week (against) Washburn Rural it was a lot of penalties. We just need to quit putting ourselves in tough positions.”
Zimmerman is doing what he can to help his team live and grow to allow the offense mature into being more productive.
“The way to do that is to eliminate the silly mistakes to allow yourself to snap the ball at second and short instead of second and long and those kind of situations,” Zimmerman said. “We have showed our kids. We have watched the last couple of weeks as they unfold. We don’t normally do that. We normally break out into offense, defense and special teams, but we have watched the game as it unfolds. With how a penalty in a critical situation really sling the tide of a game. Just clean those things up. That is also a sign of youth, (and) we are very inexperienced. We should be hitting our stride, and I expect us to be a lot better this week.”
Zimmerman said it still won’t be easy against Topeka West Friday as they will bring a lot of pressure against an offense that has yet to really prove itself this season.
“They will play very hard against us,” Zimmerman said. “They have a really big offensive line and defensive line. They are very aggressive defensively. They are going to send a lot of people at us. The last two teams (they have played) they have had a lot success just bringing a lot of people up the field. We have been working against that stuff. We need to be able to loosen them up hitting some big balls over the top. We need to be able to be balanced. We need to be able to hit deep passes, hit some underneath stuff and be able to run the football effectively. And limit the mistakes.”