Pioneers plan for another year of improvement under Sachen
Sean Sachen is entering his third season as the head coach of Leavenworth High School's football team and is eying another year of improvement.
The Pioneers went 3-6 in Sachen's first season in 2019 and 4-4 in 2020 -- including a sectional playoff win against Topeka West.
Sachen attributed some of the success to rising numbers, allowing kids to stick to playing one side of the ball the majority of the time.
"Numbers are always helpful so that we can play two-platoon," he said. "So either you only play offense or you only play defense, so we're fresher longer. and it increases the learning."
This season, the Pioneers return their starting quarterback and leading tackler but will attempt to replace the gap left by former running back Keenan Brown, who led the team in rushing and had 17 total touchdowns.
Junior Eddie McLaughlin enters his second season as Leavenworth's starting quarterback and will have even more experience under his belt after passing for 784 yards and rushing for 891 with 19 total touchdowns.
"He (McLaughlin) can be a very special player as he learns our offense and how to read defenses," Sachen said. "He's worked very hard this summer and could be poised to have an outstanding year if we can block for him."
McLaughlin will have an experienced group of pass-catchers surrounding him in Kolt Searcy, Chase Cole, Alexander Finn and Sebastian Campbell. In the backfield, Xavier Strickland stands out with five carries for 51 yards last season.
Sachen said the Pioneers' defense has gotten more athletic since last season. They moved some linebackers down to the defensive line and welcomed newcomers to the defensive backfield.
"I'm excited to see how much they've improved," he said.
All four of the Pioneers' captains come from the defensive side of the ball as the team voted senior linebacker Trenton Harper, senior defensive backs Willie George and Michael Mejia, as well as senior defensive end Riley Frederickson to lead the team.
"They all show great energy and are solid players with experience," Sachen said.
Harper is coming off an 82-tackle season and said he is proud to be voted to represent the team.
"It's really a blessing," Harper said. "To be honest, I've been playing football since I was 4, and to be able to be known as one of the captains on our team, and be trusted by our coaches and our teammates to be elected as one to really run our team. It really does mean a lot to me."
The Pioneers will face their usual slate of United Kansas Conference opponents this season with three non-district opponents in Blue Valley Southwest, Piper and Sumner Academy. Sachen said the only game they are focused on is Shawnee Heights to open the season but the team is excited for it's rivalry matchup with Lansing after last year's meeting was nixed due to COVID-19 concerns.
"We are always excited to play that game," he said. "It is always a good crowd and a hard fought game by both teams. Coach (Dylan) Brown does a great job coaching his team and they have some pretty good players over there."
The Pioneers open the season Sept. 3 at Shawnee Heights, then host Basehor-Linwood Sept. 10 for their home opener.