Local high school football teams begin official practice after a more 'normal' offseason

Jason Brown
The Leavenworth Times
Local high school teams began practicing for the upcoming season Monday

With the first high school athletic competitions less than a week away, official practices got underway Monday for all Leavenworth County High Schools. 

Football, soccer, volleyball, tennis and golf teams assembled officially after an offseason that resembled what programs are used to compared to how they operated last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"This year we went back to our 'normal' format of offseason as much as possible," Lansing head football coach Dylan Brown said, "so there was some re-adjusting that occurred, especially for our sophomore class that hadn't experienced a normal offseason."

Brown said the Lions - like many other local teams - were able to gather in the weight room more frequently this year and do more team activities. They attended a camp at Northwest Missouri State University and even hosted their own 7-on-7 camp when none of it was possible a year ago. 

Lansing will look to improve on its 5-4 record in 2020 but will have to do it with a much younger group of athletes in impact positions. The Lions will have their starting quarterback and top-returning tackler back in Caden Crawford along with a solid supporting cast. 

Leavenworth head football coach Sean Sachen said the offseason provided a huge boost for his team, which will come into practice this week much more prepared than they were at the start of the summer. 

"We struggled," he said, "but we're trying many kids at different positions and we were only a week into our offense. We looked much better at the end of summer."

The Pioneers, similar to Lansing, will try to get over the hump this season after ending 2020 with a 4-4 record, despite claiming a first-round playoff victory against Topeka West. Junior quarterback Eddie McLaughlin returns after starting all eight games as a sophomore last year. 

Sachen said the Pioneers struggled with offseason attendance at times but that won't be a problem with practice and the 2021-2022 school year starting. 

Attendance wasn't an issue for Basehor-Linwood, which is known for having great summer attendance across its entire athletic program. The Bobcats' summer weightlifting program saw nearly 500 athletes earn perfect attendance. Head football coach Rod Stallbaumer said it was a big offseason for his team in the weight room with 56 members boasting perfect attendance. 

"Summer weights have been good," Stallbaumer said. "We have made really good gains since last season and will have one of our stronger teams in recent years this fall."

That is good news for the Bobcats, who return their leader in rushing yards and top tacklers, as they look to make a deep playoff run after reaching the third round last year. 

Even with offseason programs getting closer to normal, all teams will need to take the next couple of weeks seriously with competition nearing. The earliest varsity competitions are scheduled to start Aug. 26 with tennis, followed by football jamborees scheduled for Aug. 27.