By Michael Kinney, Contributing Writer
For Carlos Thomas, it’s not a game or even a rivalry. The Mustang tailback calls the annual confrontation between MHS and Yukon a ritual.
Thomas doesn’t use the word because of all the hype and pomp and circumstance that goes into the matchup. It’s because for his entire prep career he has only known victory over the Millers.
So when Thomas and his fellow seniors head into Friday’s game at Bronco Stadium, he is looking to end his career having never lost to Yukon. And that means everything to him.
“Never losing to Yukon only makes it a bigger deal to me,” Thomas said. “It’s not only a goal, it’s a ritual. I want to keep that ritual going. We have to keep that legacy going. The younger guys are looking at it as we don’t want to disrespect Mustang by not beating Yukon. So obviously, we’re going to do whatever it takes to win”
The Millers come into the game with a new coach, a new quarterback and a different mentality. After finishing 0-10 last season, they are looking to pick themselves up and start the task of rebuilding their program.
But first, YHS has to get past a Mustang squad that has only known success against Yukon in recent years. That includes last season’s 42-20 trouncing to start the season.
“We’ve had good players,” Mustang coach Jeremy Dombek said was the key to the Mustang streak. “We’ve been fortunate. Like last year, it just seems like we came out of the gate pretty hard. It created that big lead and it was just too much for them to overcome. But the tables could be turned this year. So we really have to focus on starting the game well and not letting all the excitement and extra emotion get the better of us.”
Yet, the coaching staffs also know this rivalry is different than any other game this season.
“Just the attention,” Dombek said. “It seems like there is something going on every day. Whether it has to do with school, media, pep rallies or appearances by your kids. Everyone wants them here at this time. In just a regular old game week, it’s not like that. There is a lot to fit in for this week. We try to do the best we can. But it is different, that is for sure.”
For the players, thinking about playing Yukon fills up their thoughts during the entire off season as they prepare for the season.
“When they say we’re going to have 20,000 fans, my heart dropped,” said a very excited Blake Russell. “It’s a one in a lifetime opportunity has a high school athlete. You have some of the smaller schools who get maybe 200 or 300 people in the stands. But here, you come to 6A football and it’s a whole different level, just ready for it to happen.”
Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. Friday.
“We are very excited,” Dombek said. “We just have to go about our business throughout the week. Have a great week of practice, really lock in. The game can’t get here soon enough for coaches, players, the town.”
Drew Rosko has been around the Mustang, Yukon game since he was a kid. Unless they meet in the postseason, this will be the last time he will suit up against his I-40 rival. So he wants to make the most of it.
“I think being seniors, I’m really going to soak this one in,” Rosko said. “We’ve been fortunate to put a whooping on Yukon and I am hoping Friday night that’s what happens again. Mustang-Yukon is a huge deal. Before I step off that field I just want to be thankful I got to play in this game one more time.