Pressure is on 2006 Chieftain football squad
During the past three years, Tonganoxie has sported a combined 26-6 record.
For a football program that's had two losses in each of the last three seasons, that translates into pressure on this year's senior class.
"A lot of pressure," senior quarterback Jeff Hughes said. "There's always pressure from the older guys.
"I don't want to go out at 5-4 or 4-5, mediocre, that's not what our season is all about."
Those "older guys" are previous senior classes with banner seasons. THS coach Mark Elston, in his seventh season at Tonganoxie, said that type of pressure isn't a bad thing.
"That's good pressure," Elston said about his team, which has 70 players out this year, the most under his watch. "The new group of seniors wants to outperform the last group. It's positive pressure, something to shoot for."
Elston also stressed that each senior class made contributions to the teams before them.
But this year's 13 seniors will have to lead a team that is inexperienced in its linebacker corps and on the offensive line. That sounds like reason for concern, but this is Tonganoxie, a program that's known for filling in key positions vacated by graduating seniors.
"We've been doing well," Elston said. "Actually running our offense has been going really well. The kicking game we have some work to do and defensively we have some work to do."
Senior Derek Parrett, who has played primarily on the defensive line, will be called on to play more minutes on the offensive line. Inexperienced varsity linemen, such as Noah Fugate, Cameron Adcox and Leighton Simpson, will anchor the offensive line this season.
The Chieftains are loaded in other categories. Hughes at quarterback, senior Daniel Volk and D.J. Gray at running back and senior receivers Zeb Kissinger and Tyler Miles, should help the offense motor down the field.
"You just can't go wrong with a 6-5 and 6-4 guy," Hughes said, referring to Kissinger and Miles' heights, respectively.
"We have some different options this year," Elston said. "We've been basically limited to one receiver."
Keith Wentz-Hall is a backup receiver for the Chieftains. Elston said he isn't as tall as Miles and Kissinger, but has speed on his side.
Throw in Hughes' ability to run with the football as a quarterback, and THS could be fairly potent offensively.
"We've got the opportunity to put some defenses in a bind, provided we block for him," Elston said.
Tonganoxie's defensive line should have some playmakers this year also. Bryan Morris, who has been a fixture on the defensive line in recent years, is back for his final season, while fellow seniors Parrett and Justin McDaniel also return. In the secondary, Hughes, Volk and Miles will bring experience as well.
"We might be our biggest enemy because we have a big bull's-eye on us," Elston said of Tonganoxie's recent success. "I'd rather have it that way than anyway."
THS opens the season Friday at home against Lansing. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.