Friday night football is here. After many months, football returns across the state of Kansas.
High school teams are gearing up for another season, including the teams in Leavenworth County.
Besides the regular turnover of players graduating, big changes come for Leavenworth, Lansing and Basehor-Linwood as all three move into the new United Kansas Conference. The Lions also feature a new head coach as Dylan Brown takes over.
The start of the season is an exciting time for all.
“The first game is always exciting because the players are tired of going against each other in practice,” Leavenworth head coach Mark Littrell said. “It is the start of a new season and everyone is excited to see the new look on the team.”
The Pioneers open the season at home Friday against De Soto, which is coming off of a 10-2 season where their only losses came to Bishop Miege in the regular season and substate. Bishop Miege ended up winning the 4A state title.
With an opponent coming off of a good season like De Soto, the Pioneers will have their work cut out for them, but Littrell has some keys to possibly win the first game.
“We must play hard, play smart and give great effort on all plays,” Littrell said. “We must focus on our job and play the way that we have been coached.”
With a lot of young players starting for the Pioneers on Friday, playing hard and smart will be the key for the Pioneers to try and get the victory over the new conference opponent in front of the home crowd.
The Leavenworth Times will be covering the game this Friday. Follow our Twitter @LVTSportsGuy for updates.
The Lions kick off their new season with a new head coach. Brown was previously an assistant on the staff. The team will travel to Blue Valley High School to take on the Blue Valley Southwest Timberwolves, who are coming off of a 3-6 record from a season ago.
To win in Brown’s first game as head coach, the Lions will need to limit mistakes.
“Almost always the team that makes the least amount of mistakes, specifically in the form of turnovers and penalties, is usually the one that wins,” Brown said. “Usually the most disciplined teams do well right off the bat. That and staying healthy.”
The first game is special in Brown’s eyes due to the work and effort the team put in over the summer.
“Because more than any other game, it is seen as the culmination of all the work you did in the weight room and on the field for seven weeks in the summer and three weeks of practice once the season starts,” Brown said. “It's the first chance to show improvement and, as the cliche goes, everyone is 0-0 so it could be anyone’s year. Hope abounds. Plus it sets the initial momentum for the year.”
Basehor-Linwood will be the only 4A school in the United Kansas Conference. The smaller school size doesn’t scare Bobcats head coach Rod Stallbaumer. He actually sees that as a benefit as it can allow the team to be “battle tested” just in time for the playoffs.
Despite the 5A conference opponents, the Bobcats will open the season at home against a 4A opponent, the Tonganoxie Chieftains. The Chieftains are coming off of an undefeated regular season, including a 10-3 win at Basehor-Linwood last season. Both teams suffered losses in the first round of the playoffs.
The team’s focus will be the key for the team to avenge the loss from last season.
“The keys to the first game are about channeling all that emotion of game one into focus,” Stallbaumer said. “Minimizing mistakes and being aggressive. Teams have very little film to use to scout for game one so adapting on the fly to what changes and new wrinkles your opponent brings in is also key.”
The first game also will allow all of the work to finally come to fruition.
“The first game of the season is always special because each team is different and there is a lot of hope, optimism and uncertainty that surrounds every season and game one is the first glimpse of all the hard work and dedication coming to fruition,” Stallbaumer said. “The practice to game ratio in football is so great, teams spend a lot of time in the summer preparing through weights, seven-on-seven and camps then you have three weeks of practice all leading up to that first game. That's a lot of build-up, it's a special feeling to run out onto the field under the Friday night lights and play in front of a large crowd, something you can only get in the game of football.”
The Pleasant Ridge Rams enter the 2018 season with a lot of experience. After having a small senior class in 2017, the Rams were forced to play a lot of younger players and now around 10 players have varsity starting experience.
The Rams open their 2018 season on the road against Jefferson County North, a team coming off of a 10-1 season, including an undefeated regular season.
Rams head coach Pat McCollim said the Rams will need to be disciplined to pull off the win.
“I think the biggest key to this first week is to be disciplined,” McCollim said. “Both with penalties and our assignments. This is a team that won a lot of football games last year and we’ll have to play a solid, clean game to win.”
Like the other coaches in the area, McCollim thinks the first game is special for the players to finally play other teams.
“The first game of the year is always exciting and special after a long summer of work and three weeks of playing and hitting each other,” McCollim said. “The kids are itching to get out and see the fruits of their labor as well as play against someone other than themselves.”