Monday, February 20, 2017  
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Sports Editor

   For the Kirk Raiders, preparation won’t be that difficult. Stopping the ground game of the Winona Christian Stars will be a task in itself.
   KA coach John McCrory knows the challenge for his defensive unit as the teams prepare for tonight’s District 1-AA opener at Raider Field.
   “After watching film on them, there’s no question that they love to run the football,” McCrory said. “They have a big offensive line that they like to run behind. It will be a challenge for our guys to get off blocks and make tackles.”
   Retired Winona HS football coach Ken Chandler inherited a team that went 7-4 last season losing in the opening round of the playoffs. He also inherited an offensive front that weighs 295, 350, 215, and 240 to name just a few. They also have a 300-pound transfer and a 240-pound sophomore at tackle.
   “We really like our offensive line,” Chandler said in an interview earlier this summer. “There is plenty of depth on the defensive line. We just hope to mesh as a unit.”
   Stuart Dickerson (215, sr.) returns at fullback and linebacker. Justin Burkett (200, sr.) has been solid in the opening two games. He sat out last season.
   One of the biggest question marks heading into the season was at quarterback. A pair of inexperienced seniors at the position, Waye Watkins and Morgan Mills, have split time there. Watkins is 7-12 for 88 yards in two games.
   Burkett leads the rushing attack with 193 yards in two games. He also leads the team in tackles with 12.
   The Raiders broke into the win column last week downing Lee Academy of Arkansas by a 42-6 margin. In that contest, quarterback Gunner Hudspeth threw for five first half touchdowns.
   “I thought we came back from some early adversity and played pretty well,” McCrory said. “We had some folks step up and make some plays. I thought Gunner threw the football well and for the most part we protected him good.”
   From a running game perspective, McCrory needs more production.
   “We need more folks other than (Zach) Beckum to step up and run the ball effectively,” McCrory said. “It’s going to be important to be able to run the ball.”
   Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Raider Field.

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