Bobcats look to have strong start, make deep run
A lot can change in a year and that certainly applies to Basehor-Linwood football.
After starting a slew of underclassmen across the field last season, the Bobcats hit the weight room during the offseason and came out looking like one of the strongest teams the program has ever seen.
"We put in hundreds of hours in the weight room this summer," senior linebacker Aiden Ingram said. "We are one of the strongest groups to come through this so this summer was very important with focusing on weights and physicality and making sure we could get to all of the camps we missed last year."
The Bobcats went 7-4 last season but got off to a tough start at 1-3, with losses to Tonganoxie, De Soto and St. James. The second half of the season saw the Bobcats reel off six straight wins and reach the quarterfinals of the Class 4A playoffs.
Basehor-Linwood returns standout running back Zack Sisemore for his senior season. Already the owner of the school's single-season rushing and touchdown records, he will have a chance to set the career marks in head coach Rod Stallbaumer's offense.
"He's going to be a big part of what we do this year," Stallbaumer said. "We're going to a bit more run-heavy this year so I told him he might have more yards on less carries. We'll go where Zack takes us."
Sisemore said he is ready to take this season on and has found more ways to improve his game.
"I'm a lot stronger," Sisemore said. "I've been working on my footwork and have gotten a lot better."
Sisemore will be lining up behind a new quarterback this season as senior Brady Garrison won the job over the summer.
"He's definitely a different quarterback than what we've had the last couple of years," Stallbaumer said. "Far more mobile and he's a really intelligent guy. He's a really good decision-maker and brings an element we haven't had for the past few years."
Basehor will be without all-state wide receiver Jordan Brown this season due to a transfer but will have plenty of solid options for Garrison to throw to.
Seniors Chants Nelson and Sean McGowan bring experience to the receiver room with the former earning first-team conference honors last season and the latter scoring praise from Stallbaumer for his offseason progress. Stallbaumer said the depth chart is deep behind the two seniors, including junior Brant Wilson, meaning a lot of Bobcats will have chances to catch passes this season.
The defense figures to be a strength as there are nine returning senior starters. Ingram said having so many underclassmen starting last season was difficult but the group has plenty of experience entering the season.
"Well, the mentality is more confidence," Ingram said. "You can't fake confidence, but last year we were trying."
Ingram was the Bobcats' leading tackler last season with 95 total and will be joined by fellow linebackers Sam Hicks – second on the team with 74 tackles – Caleb Baar and Tucker Dixon. Returning seniors Peyton McGee, Drake Courtney and Dalton Harris will line up on the defensive line. On the back end, they will have Garrison, Tommy Lally and Denton Gentry. In total, the Bobcats will have eight of their top 10 tacklers from last season back.
"Having nine starters back is a big part of it," Stallbaumer said of the defense. "We spent a lot of time in the offseason simplifying our defense to make them think even less so they can react faster and play more aggressively. And then you add having a really good offseason in the weight room because we're bigger, stronger and faster than we were a year ago.
The Bobcats will have another tough schedule this season but will not match up with Class 4A champion St. James in the regular season. Stallbaumer said there are still plenty of challenges in the opening weeks of the season the Bobcats need to be ready for.
"Right out of the gate we have two big road games to start the year," he said. "A rivalry game against Tonganoxie who has been a great match-up for us, and Leavenworth, who has improved and looks to be a challenge as well. We also have DeSoto, who has won the last two UKC titles in week three so we have a lot to be prepared for and need to start strong."
The Bobcats' first two contests will be on the road with the home opener at Kiester Field scheduled for Sept. 17 against De Soto.