Bobcats aiming to follow up historic season with more

The names tick off like a roster of Marvel Superheroes.

Eric Scott.

Justin Phillips.

Chas Rollo.

It goes on and on for the Basehor-Linwood football program that scaled its greatest heights ever a year ago, when it finished 11-1 overall, 6-0 in Kaw Valley League (KVL) play and win the first ever sectional title ever.

The season wrapped up in disappointing fashion – a 52-0 defeat in the Class 4A-I semifinals against Bishop Miege – and with it, a D-1 NCAA recruit (Scott), a starting quarterback (Phillips) and the school’s second all-time leading scorer (Rollo) graduated along with 10 other starters.

Now for an encore?

As head coach Rod Stallbaumer enters year No. 4 at BLHS and has seen gradual growth in each of the preceding three, this year will need to be more about growth than wins and losses.

“Graduation takes a heavy toll,” Stallbaumer said. “Offensively we return only three starters and will need some people to step up into playmaker roles. We graduate four of our top receivers (1,400 yards) and 2,100 of our rushing yards from last season.

“I really like this groups competitiveness and work ethic.  This group has come a long way since this summer and has a chance to surprise a lot of people.”

Senior J.C. Watson and junior Dylan Musset will battle it out for the starting quarterback spot and T.J. Williams and Nolan Ford will team up to hopefully replicate Rollo’s stellar numbers.

Junior Jacob Coleman should step up to help lead the receiving corps.

On defense, the Bobcats return five starters including Joey Foster, Williams and Ford who help make up a fantastic linebacking unit.

“With as many new starters as we have on both sides of the ball getting our timing down offensively and getting everyone communicating and knowing where they fit defensively will be paramount,” Stallbaumer said. “We will need to stay healthy as we don't have the depth that we have had in years past.”

A great season like last one can add to the drama for some of the veteran returners.

“It does add pressure, but it’s pressure we like to have,” Foster said. “Wherever we read, we might be ranked in the polls, but that’s only based on what we did last year. No one believes in who we have. No one knows our quarterback. No one knows our line. That’s what we love: Being able to come out and prove ourselves and turn the corner.

“On defense, we got some really good guys and guys who started last year so they know the system, they know the plays now we just want to go out and prove ourselves. Our secondary is going to need some work, we have a lot of new guys in the secondary beside J.C. Our front seven will hold us down for the first half of the season until we really get into things.”

Foster has been impressed with the new offensive faces.

“Musset is a great guy and can sling the ball and J.C. is more of a running quarterback and T.J. and Nolan are the same type of backs and are here every day working and listening to coach,” Foster said. “It’s pretty evenly balanced on offense.”

Watson feels confident about the Bobcat offense and has enjoyed the duel with Musset.

“We just try to play and get better every day, we can’t do what last year’s group did,” Watson said. “You can’t live the past, you live right now. Something (the graduated players) gave us was leadership and how to be leaders when times are tough and also being competitive. 

“I love (the quarterback competition). It makes me and him better every day. That’s what’s best for the team really. We are friends and he’s like a little brother. I’ll still help him out even if he’s the starter and I know he’ll help me out if I am the starter. We have each other’s back.”

The KVL title was a great cherry on top and now with the league fading into non-existence after this school year, BLHS will be hard-pressed to be the last champion for the books.

“The KVL favorite will likely be Tonganoxie as they return a loaded senior class,” Stallbaumer said. “Piper and Bonner will also be very tough as will Turner who came on strong at the end of last season. The district race should be very competitive with Tonganoxie and Piper being very strong and we will have to play both on the road this season.”

No matter, the dividends of all the work the Bobcats have put in are definitely showing themselves.

“I like where we are at with our program so far,” Stallbaumer said. “I feel like the last three years have a laid a very solid foundation as far as what our expectations are and how we conduct our business and will hopefully allow us to continue to build and grow.”

They hope to grow and use the Miege loss as a driving force.

“It was a tough one, they’ve got us a few times now,” Foster said. “They might have more athletes and they can do this and do that and you can make all the excuses in the world, but at the end of the day, you just have to outwork your opponent.”

Schedule breakdown

Coming off its historic season last fall, Basehor-Linwood should be set to come close to duplicating a regular season effort in 2016, when they went 9-0 before heading into the playoffs.

Don’t be mistaken however, some of the teams that gave BLHS fits come back better and stronger in 2017, so there could be plenty of intrigue as the Bobcats continue to build on the program’s new legacy.

Sept. 1, HOST Bishop Ward, 7 p.m.

Ward is a mess. One of the first teams to leave the KVL, this team struggles to stay within 50 points most nights and a game like this only benefits a revamped Bobcat squad.

Sept. 8, at Spring Hill, 7 p.m.

After recording its first winning season in two decades, Spring Hill returns 11 starters, but its top players on both sides of the ball are gone. Basehor-Linwood will still have to be ready against an improved program.

Sept. 15, at Turner, 7 p.m.

Turner will be an interesting team to keep an eye on with seven offensive starters – including running back Jaylin Richardson and quarterback Jaelon Harley – looking to improve on a 5-5 mark. Eight defensive veterans could help that too.

Sept. 22, HOST Independence, 7 p.m.

It’s homecoming night and a good Independence program will be looking for payback after last year’s defeat down south. This could be a key win for a growing Bobcat squad with a win over a team that lost only twice a year ago.

Sept. 29, HOST Bonner Springs, 7 p.m.

The Braves have new leadership with its coaching staff coming in to take over a 4-6 team that returns nine starters on both sides of the ball. This is an unknown commodity in the KVL that could challenge for a title or fall short. The new coaches will determine a lot of that.

Oct. 6, HOST Lansing, 7 p.m.

This unique and key three-game homestand could springboard the Bobcats in a sweep-able stretch of games. A year ago, Lansing couldn’t get anything going at home in a 45-9 loss to BLHS. With this being week six, both teams would benefit from a big performance.

Oct. 13, at Piper, 7 p.m.

Piper only brings back eight starters total from a 6-4 team so making a move in the KVL may be difficult as others like BLHS seem to be on the upward cycle. A year ago, Basehor needed to scrap for a 48-34 win and a replication of that night is possible as District 4A-1 begins.

Oct. 20, HOST Atchison, 7 p.m.

Atchison was an unbeaten team before district play began and promptly got sent home for the playoffs with three straight loses. They lost most of their starting talent and a quarterback so things could get interesting on this night.

Oct. 27, at Tonganoxie, 7 p.m.

The Chieftains return 18 starters including D1 recruit, defensive end LeRoi Johnson, quarterback Mason Beach and running back Dalton Bock. This tough, gritty group may be the KVL favorites this fall. This contest could very much end up being for the KVL and regional titles.