McLouth faithful eager for Bulldog football
The buzz of football resonates throughout McLouth these days.
Whether it's at the high school open house or down the street at the gasoline station, local residents are talking about this year's Bulldog football team.
"You can't go to the gas station without somebody asking," MHS coach Harry Hester said. "Which is great because if we can get the community behind us with a positive effort, it's going to be good for our kids."
Last year, McLouth ended a 20-game losing streak with a season-opening victory against Horton. A week later the team stopped its five-year home losing streak with a victory against Wathena.
The team was 4-1 at one point in the season, but then lost its last four games -- including three district games.
At 4-5, McLouth just missed its first winning season since 1998. However, with 12 players returning as seniors this season, this could be the year the team kicks another undesirable streak.
"Our main thing we've been telling the kids is that we were at 4-5," Hester said about last season. "That means four people want revenge on us and five people still don't think we can beat them."
On offense, the Bulldogs will feature senior running back Kevin Stewart, who last year ran for 1,167 yards on 221 carries. Senior quarterback Jimmy Steffey also returns, as do senior tight end Joel Gill and junior wide receivers Trevor Keling and Andrew Booth.
On the offensive line, the Bulldogs return three seniors -- Jason McGhee, Jonah Wise and Blake Kingsolver.
If the Bulldogs are successful this season, though, the secret might be the defense.
Hester said his team had a pretty good defense last year, but should be even better this fall. Last season, the team had no defensive players recognized on the all-Delaware Valley League team.
"So our kids kind of took that to heart," Hester said. "So they're going to make sure they're known about."
Ryan Perry returns at middle linebacker, while McGhee is back as a defensive tackle. Stewart plays at free safety, while Gill is an outside linebacker. Also returning on the defensive side are Kyle Sparks at cornerback, Cody Cook at outside linebacker and Josh Hobbs at defensive end. Booth will be a returning cornerback.
The Bulldogs also feature a senior transfer -- Tyler Wise -- from Leavenworth High.
Last season, Pleasant Ridge won the DVL title. With much of that team returning, Hester expects the Rams to be the favorite.
"Until somebody can beat them, they've got to be the favorites," Hester said. "I would think we should have a good chance to challenge for the title."
Of course, history doesn't seem to be on Pleasant Ridge's side. Hester said a DVL football champion has not repeated in the next season for the last several years.
As for another team to beat, Hester has labeled Doniphan West as a sleeper that could surprise some teams and challenge for a league title.
McLouth opens the season Friday against Horton. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.