Following an up-and-down season that saw Leavenworth football start 0-2, quickly regroup to 2-2 then go 1-4 down the back end of the schedule to finish 3-6, the Pioneers showed up to the team’s summer workouts in large numbers.
"Summer was great," head coach Sean Sachen said. "We started June 1 and had our best summer attendance since I’ve been here. We did not use the weight room but got lots of workouts and skills developed outside."
The Pioneers started practice Monday, a week later than many other area schools, and Sachen said the team still has a lot of room for improvement.
"I think for where I see this team being and where we are, we have a long way to go," he said. "But my assistant coaches thought we looked good for day one."
The Pioneers will aim to improve on how they close out games as they fell by eight or fewer points in three contests last season. Sachen said the team needs to capitalize on the momentum that was generated in those close games last season.
"We need to build on what our senior leadership left us with," he said, "which was a very competitive attitude, regardless of the score."
At the quarterback position, the Pioneers will have to replace the dual-threat ability of former starter JoVaughn Darthard and are looking at a trio of underclassmen to step into the role. Sachen said Eddie McLaughlin is the frontrunner at the moment.
"Eddie is a very dynamic runner who can throw as well," he said. "Once he figures out our scheme in a pressure situation, he could be very special."
Leavenworth will have a full house in the wide receiver department but will have experience in its running game with Keenan Brown slated to step into the starting role and three of five starters on the offensive line returning – Luke Wagne, Alijandro Griese and Justin Pettis.
On the defensive side of the ball, Sachen expects free safety Nathan Waugh, inside linebacker Trenton Harper, cornerback Santiago McLaughlin and defensive lineman Devin Bruning to take big steps forward.
Sachen said the Pioneers were quick to implement health standards to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but concerns of the season being postponed still loom.
"The concern is always about keeping kids and their families safe," he said. "But we are also concerned that the season can be taken away from us at any given moment."
The Pioneers are scheduled to open the season Sept. 11 on the road against Basehor-Linwood. Kick off is scheduled for 7 p.m.