Senior Cardinal shakes up the gridiron
The dawn of the Gregg Webb era has changed several things for the Eudora Cardinals. Senior powerback Luke Powers is making more changes than any player on the team.
"He's a valuable, valuable player for us," Webb said. "He's a smart kid and a physical kid. He's athletic and likes contact."
Powers played wide receiver last season in Aaron Barnett's run-oriented offense. This season, the Cards will run the ball in a three-back formation that includes senior tailback Andrew Pyle and senior fullback Tyler Jackson. Passing isn't expected to be a high priority for the Cards.
"They run two totally different offenses," Powers said of Barnett and Webb. "(With Webb), all the backs are going in different directions. It's all misdirection stuff."
Powers said offensive teammates have picked things up gradually, but the fact that the Cards' strong defense gets confused is a good sign.
"The defense in practice is having a hard time picking it up," he said. "They are a pretty good defense. Other defenses will (be confused) too."
Powers, who last ran the ball in middle school, said he was now at 184 pounds. Somehow, he plans to slim down to his wrestling weight of 152 or to 160 by the wrestling season. He might not have much time to shed the pounds, because Powers said the football season is going to last a little bit longer this year.
"We're all planning on winning state," Powers said. "We all know we can do it. We know the competition is going to be hard, but we think we're the best team in the state right now."
Powers said the team time in school history we're not playing Wellsville. The alumni were shocked. That's the game everyone looked forward to."
The Bulldogs have changed districts and will face Perry-Lecompton, Santa Fe Trail, and perennial 4A power Hayden this season.
Paola (9-1) went undefeated in Frontier League play before losing to Fort Scott in the first round of the class 4A playoffs. The Panthers return one starter, senior offensive tackle Steve Kohler, and all-conference senior linebacker Nate Payne, a part-time starter last year. Coach Mike Dumpert said the Panthers, who lost 21 seniors, will have to look to sophomores and juniors to pick up the pace. This year's group only has five seniors.
"We're young and inexperienced but not void of talent," Dumpert said. "It depends on how fast we grow up. We're looking forward to the challenge."
Dumpert didn't agree with the Frontier League.
"As far as I'm concerned, if you're in a league, you're in a league," Dumpert said. "I have a problem with some of the schools not playing us."
Dumpert said the Panthers are taking it one game at a time but hope to be ready for the Cardinals Sept. 27 in Eudora.
"We weren't supposed to win up there last year either," Dumpert said.
Gardner-Edgerton, the only 5A school in the league, tied for second place in the league and finished 6-3 last season. The Trailblazers, who won't face Eudora this season, have added Prairie View and Clay Center to their schedule. The Blazers return six starters on both sides of the ball. They will compete against Blue Valley, Blue Valley West, and Pittsburg in 5A district play for the second straight year.
Gardner coach Mark Meyer said there had been discussion that the Blazers may leave the Frontier League to join a league filled with larger Johnson County schools.
"I think that's being discussed but as of right now, we're still in the Frontier League," Meyer said. "There isn't a better 4A league around."
Louisburg coach Gary Griffin, a longtime assistant to Kris Kehl, who left for 3A Jayhawk-Linn, takes over the Louisburg program that went 5-4 a season ago.
Griffin said the brother duo of running backs junior Chris Skuban and senior Nick Skuban hope to return at full strength after suffering season-ending injuries early last season. The 'Cats also return senior wide receivers Clayton Pritchard and Andrew Jones. There are 13 seniors on a squad that will face Labette County on the road and Sumner Academy in non-conference play this season.
"It's probably good for the league," Griffin said of the divisions. "I'll let you know for sure after the season."
Spring Hill is in full rebuilding mode this season with only three starters returning on both sides of the ball after a 5-4 campaign in 2001. The Broncos, only two years removed from a playoff year in 2000, return senior tight end/defensive lineman Richard Hannah and senior running back/inside linebacker Kory Barrett. Junior Aaron Barnett returns at defensive back.
"We are going to be very young," 16-year coach Rick Clark said. "We have no size, no depth. I hope quickness will be a team strength."
Clark is indifferent about the division split.
"It doesn't make any difference," Clark said. "We have two big schools (Gardner-Edgerton and Paola) and two little schools (Prairie View and Wellsville), and six schools set in the middle."
In district play, the Cardinals won't have to worry about any Frontier League foes. They will travel to De Soto (1-9) Oct. 18 . The Wildcats are led by senior running back Michael Allen, who has attracted scouts from a slew of Big 12 football programs.
The Cards will travel to Bishop Ward (6-3), the defending champion of the Huron League, Oct. 25 before returning home to face Mill Valley (6-3) Oct. 31. The Jaguars nearly upset Eudora at De Soto District Stadium but the Cards prevailed late in the game to win 21-7 last season.