KPZ Pregame Week 12: Derby vs. Washburn Rural

Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 4:30 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - It’s Sub-State week in Kansas, and teams across the state are ready to fight for their trip to State.

For our Kansas Prep Zone Game of the Week, it’s Derby (10-1) paying a visit to Washburn Rural (11-0) for a 6A showdown. Rural is looking to continue an undefeated season.

”I think in the back of their heads everybody felt like we could do this. But until you actually do, it’s not the reality,” head coach Steve Buhler said about the Junior Blues’ impressive 2023 campaign.

Punching a ticket to State would mean a lot to everyone on this senior-heavy team, but they know they can’t make it there until they get past week 12.

“Obviously it’s something we haven’t done in a really long time, it’s something Coach Buhler hasn’t done, so it’d mean a lot,” said senior quarterback Branton DeWeese.

Standing in the way is Derby, who took down the reigning 6A State champs, Manhattan, last week in Sectionals.

“Like we’ve talked about, you can’t get to game 13 ‘till you win game 12,” Coach Buhler said. “We’ve kinda done the whole season that way, and that’s the truth of it.”

It’s also a chance at revenge for Rural. The Panthers knocked them out of the playoffs on the road last year in Sectionals.


“That was important for us to play that game last year. For us to be able to compete against them at their place, and kinda get a feel for how they approach the game and playoffs, was a big deal for us,” Coach Buhler said of last year’s game.

The Junior Blues know this is going to be their toughest test of the season.

“They’re so well coached, they’re so competitive, they’ve got so much tradition this time of year. They kinda live for this time of year,” Coach Buhler added.

But they also know what it’s gonna take to come out on top.

“We’re gonna win this game by just being disciplined, looking at our keys, and sticking together,” said senior running back/linebacker JC Heim.

“The kids came out of Friday night and one of the first things out of the seniors’ mouths as they were leaving the locker room is ‘We’re gonna get back to work’,” said Coach Buhler.

It’s a squad full of seniors who have started for multiple years, and they’re not ready to let their seasons end when they’re this close to the ultimate goal.

“We really came together as a team over these 12 weeks, hopefully 13,” DeWeese said.

Getting to Week 13 is what every high school football player dreams of, and Washburn Rural is ready to finally make it back.

“It’d be a blessing,” Heim said. “It’d be something the school hasn’t had in quite a while. So it’d be awesome, it’d be a great feeling, and hopefully we can get there.”

The game will kickoff at 7:00 p.m. at Washburn Rural High School, and 13 Sports will have highlights and postgame coverage during Kansas Prep Zone at 10:00 p.m.