KEARNEY — Kearney Catholic has won two consecutive games with each victory coming by nine points. After defeating Lincoln Christian and Ogallala the last two weeks, the Stars (3-1) will face Minden at 7 p.m. Friday at home.
The Whippets (3-1) also have thrived this season and are riding a two-game winning streak.
Last season, the Whippets ended an eight-game losing streak against the Stars with a 16-14 victory. After Minden scored 14 straight points to begin the game, the Stars roared back and scored 14 points in the second half. But Minden registered a fourth-quarter safety, which was the difference.
Here are three areas to watch in Friday’s contest between the Stars and Whippets:
The Stars are at the halfway point in the regular season. With three victories in their first four games, the Stars have a chance to match last season’s win total with a victory over Minden on Friday. With five games remaining, including Friday’s contest, the Stars have a strong chance to making the playoffs after missing out last season with a 4-5 record.
The Stars’ lone loss this season came against Aurora, 45-10, in Week 2.
“I think at this point, we are playing well offensively and defensively,” KCHS coach Rashawn Harvey said. “(We had) a couple of special teams hiccups last week, but we were able to overcome those. We like where we are at right now. Obviously, we can improve.”
Harvey hopes the Stars can improve their accuracy in the passing game and shore up their run defense and physicality on the defensive side over the remainder of the season, he said.
“We showed that we can play physical football Friday night against Ogallala, and we came out on top,” Harvey said. “Our young men know how to play physical, but it’s just when they choose to have that physical behavior.”
In last week’s 28-19 victory over Ogallala, the Stars featured a run-heavy offensive approach, running the ball 31 times compared to 12 passes from junior quarterback Heinrich Haarberg.
The Stars rushed for 190 yards against Ogallala with junior running back Cale Conrad serving as a workhorse. Conrad, who played in his first game since Week 1 due to an injury, recorded 24 carries for 170 yards and four touchdowns.
Haarberg and Brett Mahony also carried the ball for the Stars and combined for six carries and 14 yards.
In the passing game, Haarberg completed 6 of 12 passes for 59 yards.
“We wanted to be more 50-50 and usually we are about 60-40, but they came out in a defense that they hadn’t showed all season,” Harvey said. “We went to a formation that they didn’t adjust to in the first quarter, so we just kept going back to the run-heavy formation. They had five guys in the box, and five guys in the box for us means run the football.”
Stopping the run
The Whippets are averaging 162 rushing yards per game compared to about 130 passing yards per contest.
Senior running back Eddie Gonzalez has almost exclusively carried the ball for Minden this season. He has 102 carries for 572 yards and four touchdowns in four games this season. He’s averaging 143 rushing yards per game for a 5.6 yards per carry average.
Last season, Gonzalez ran for 109 yards on 27 carries against the Stars. Minden finished the game with 226 rushing yards.
Junior Braden Bates is Minden’s starting quarterback. He has had mixed results this season, completing 45.2 percent of his passes for 503 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions.
“We have to be physical,” Harvey said. “They pounded us last year. It was a two-point game, but they physically beat us up last year. They showed up ready to play, and we didn’t. We underestimated the Whippets. Our young men have to show up mentally and physically.”