Every year in early September, two towns in Canadian County shut down, as their beloved high school football teams do battle on the gridiron and the winner giving their respective communities bragging rights for one year until it all happens again.
Yukon will host rival Mustang at 7 p.m. Friday at Miller Stadium to open the 2016 regular season. The past two years, the Broncos have gotten the best of the Millers in a big way with two blowout wins in 2014 and 2015.
The two schools, that reside on the same road just nine miles apart from one another, are not in the same 6A-1 district, so the outcome of the game has no bearing on the postseason. This game is played only for pride, which is more than enough for these two teams.
“This is one of the best atmospheres in high school football,” Yukon coach Brian Sauser said. “Anyone who is a part of it feels very fortunate to get to be a part of a great rivalry like this. The intensity between the two places is more than I have ever been a part of, but it is even better when you go and win a game like this. We have been telling our guys, ‘Hey, it’s great that you get to be a part of this, but winning this game, would make it even more special’.
“Our focus for a long, long time has been to beat Mustang, because they are Mustang.”
When Yukon has the ball and Mustang is on defense
Mustang’s strength in 2016 will be its defense led by senior defensive tackle and University of Nebraska commit Deontre Thomas. The Broncos also return defensive backs Darion Richards and Carter Rees to a talented secondary.
Yukon returns starting quarterback Trevor Smith and will rely heavily on their big offensive line led by seniors Denton Sanchez and Madison Wrather and a stable of running backs led by Michael Cooper to lead the way, especially early in the season.
“Defensively, they are really good,” Sauser said. “They have several starters back in their secondary, which makes a big difference and they are all really good tacklers. That is one thing that stands out watching their two scrimmages. They are all good tacklers and they are physical. Their nose guard (Thomas), a guy going to Nebraska is outstanding. With him in the middle and sound guys around him, they are extremely tough on defense. They will be one of the best we see all year.”
When Yukon is on defense and Mustang is on offense
Three-year starter and now Division I college football player at Wyoming, Chandler Garrett is no longer under center for the Broncos. It’ll be another Garrett calling the signals for Mustang against Yukon. Brayden Garrett is Chandler Garrett’s younger brother and he is taking over at QB for MHS.
The younger Garrett isn’t quite the passer his brother is, at least not yet, so Mustang will have to rely on their run game behind their massive offensive line and junior running back Carlos Thomas.
Yukon’s defense will be led by senior outside linebacker Daunte McGee, who at 6-foot-4 225-pounds is a force to be reckoned with against anybody. Senior safety Ethan Scott and senior inside linebacker Brett Gerber will also help lead the Miller defense alongside McGee.
“Anytime you lose a guy like Chandler Garrett, it’s going to be difficult to fill those shoes, but his brother is a good athlete,” Sauser said. “He can do a lot of things with his feet that can hurt you. One thing about Mustang is, sure they lose a lot of good players every year but their execution is really good. They are very disciplined in knowing what they want to do and they stick to that. The personnel changes but they are going to be good. It will be a big challenge for us on Friday.”
Yukon has been a relatively young team the past two years, but they are older and more experienced going into the 2016 season. Sauser said he believes his team is more prepared for this game than they have been since he’s been at Yukon.
“Yeah definitely,” Sauser said. “We have 14 starters back and I think that matters in this type of environment. We only had four starters back last year. We feel like our guys are going to go out there and play with more composure this year. In this type of game, with it being the first game of the year, that is important to have. I feel like we have improved a ton since last year. The start of the game is going to really critical. If we are able to get out front and facing a new quarterback, it could work in our favor but we know it’s going to be a 48-minute dog fight.”