For the past three years, Kyle Nuelle has waited to play a major role on a district championship team. Tonight, Nuelle will have his chance.
With a victory tonight at Hickman against the Jefferson City Jays, the Kewpies (6-3, 2-0) can clinch a playoff berth, marking their first appearance in the playoffs since 2000. If the Kewpies lose to Jefferson City (7-2, 2-0), the loss will drop them to 6-4, where they have finished for the past three years.
The Kewpies last won a district title when Nuelle, a senior linebacker and tight end, was a freshman and his brother, Clay, was the Kewpies’ starting running back.
“We had a good 1997 (through) 2000 team with a little tradition going on,” Kyle Nuelle said. “It is more than getting to the playoffs this year. It is another chance for Hickman to get back on top.”
Coach Gregg Nesbitt said he isn’t concerned with the three-year absence from the playoffs, but he recognizes tonight’s game is important to the seniors.
“We think our program is in good shape,” Nesbitt said. “We played a tremendously difficult schedule, and our seniors have led us up to this point.
“From my perspective, getting back to the playoffs is not a huge deal. I think for them to get back to the playoffs and send this football team back is very important to our senior class.”
Although the Kewpies suffered a three-game losing streak early in the season, Nuelle said they are confident their schedule has prepared well for the postseason.
“We had a couple goals this year,” Nuelle said. “One of them was beating Rock Bridge, which we did, and the other was winning the district championship. We knew we probably had to play the Jays in that, so we need to play a good game in order to get to the district championships.”
Nuelle said he expects the game to be much like the one against Oak Park, which defeated the Kewpies 37-17 on Sept. 27 in North Kansas City.
“Jeff City likes to pound the ball,” Nuelle said. “We just need to stay tough. Our offense has got to control the ball and not turn the ball over.”
Much like Hickman, Jefferson City has played a grueling schedule, which includes 2002 state champion Rockhurst and Kansas’ state champion, Olathe North.
“It’s a tough matchup,” Nesbitt said. “Both teams are playing great football. They are solid in all three facets.
“We think they are the most physical defense we’ve seen this year. They are a big blitz team; they bring a big blitz package. That will be a real key for our offense if we can handle the pressure.”