Lots of new faces on offensive, defensive lines
Hillsboro High School football coach Lance Sawyer wants to see his team improve on a 2012 season when the Trojans reached the regional playoff round with a perfect 10-0 record before losing to Sedgwick.
“I think we need to be able to build on last year,” Sawyer said. “We lost a lot of seniors, but expectations don’t go down at all with this group.”
At a conditioning session on Thursday, Sawyer told team captains — Jesse Brown, Cody Delk, Jesse Meier, and Evan Ollenburger — about their selection.
Ollenburger was the first player to come to mind as a playmaker for Sawyer. He will mostly play wide receiver and defensive back.
“He’s probably the most experienced guy we’ve got back,” he said.
Brown will play defensive back and could play at either quarterback or receiver on offense, Sawyer said. Other players who could get time at quarterback include Jakob Hanschu, Braden Vogt, and Preston Nelson.
Brown will also handle kicking duties. He was good at placing kickoffs and had good accuracy on extra points. Sawyer doesn’t know who will be the team’s punter, though.
“Hopefully we’ll never have to punt,” he joked.
Delk is the only returning member of last year’s starting defensive line, and Meier will likely be part of a reworked offensive line.
All of the 2012 starting offensive line is gone this year, but Sawyer has been pleased with the conditioning of likely starters, such as Chase Meisinger, Graham Pankratz, Cody Craney, and Meier.
“I was impressed with how they performed during camp,” Sawyer said.
He isn’t sure who the likely fifth lineman will be, but overall the line will be smaller and more athletic than last year.
Sawyer hopes to see a productive season out of running backs/linebackers Justus Hilliard and Preston Nelson.
His plan is to run a spread offense with multiple receivers in most situations, while keeping play calls balanced between running and passing.
“I think we should again be able to be a fast-paced offense,” he said.
Spread offenses are designed to match up offensive playmakers against defenders one-on-one with space to work in.
“We’ll take a one-on-one battle anytime,” Sawyer said.
The Trojans will use a base 4-3 defense — four defensive linemen with three linebackers, backed by four defensive backs. Sawyer said he wants and expects “strong, tough-nosed kids” on defense.
The conditioning program last week had good participation, maybe 90 percent, Sawyer estimated. A lot of players were already in good shape when they arrived at conditioning.
They’ll have to be in good shape when the season starts Sept. 6 at home against Lyons if they want to make up for the loss of so many linemen, as well as quarterback Tyler Proffitt, receiver Shaq Thiessen, and running back Tyrell Thiessen. Sawyer said the young up-and-comers have shown potential, but it isn’t concrete.
“You can tell some from a JV game but you don’t know until they get out on that field,” Sawyer said.
The Trojans’ district opponents this year will be Marion, Moundridge, and Halstead.
Sawyer is assisted by Robert Haude, Scott O’Hare, and Darrel Knoll.
- Sept. 6: Home against Lyons, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 13: At Sterling, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 20: At Nickerson, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 27: Home against Hesston, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 4: At Smoky Valley, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 11: At Remington, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 18: Homecoming against Moundridge, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 25: At Marion, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 31: Home against Halstead, 7 p.m.
- Nov. 5: Bi-district at location to be determined.