Older kids on the block for Tonganoxie High football
“Grow up,” “fought hard” and “ excited for the future” were all common phrases used by Tonganoxie head coach Al Troyer when discussing his youthful Tonganoxie High School Football team last season.
The Chieftains struggled to a 3-6 record in a season full of lessons. Eight sophomores were regular starters, and more importantly, the Chieftains only lost seven seniors off last year’s team.
“It’s always a progression when you’re rebuilding with a young squad,” Troyer said. “We started eight sophomores last season and they’ve matured. The outlook is good.”
Even though all of the underclassmen are a year older that doesn’t guarantee any sort of success. But according to Troyer, his players did everything they could to give themselves a chance to succeed this season with the work they put in over the summer.
“We had 80-plus percent of our team there (at workouts) 80 to 90 percent of the time,” Troyer said. “We had 18 starters on our team that were perfect attenders, that didn’t miss a day this summer.”
This year, the Chieftains can no longer be referred to as young. They’re a veteran team full of players who have seen significant playing time in their system for the last couple of seasons.
There were times last season where the Chieftains were close to a breakthrough, but a fumble, interception or missed assignment set them back. So it should come as no surprise that when Troyer was asked about the key to the upcoming season he replied “fundamentals.”
“Our seniors have been in the system four years and our juniors for three years,” Troyer said. “The nice thing about having that many returning starters is they know the system and what’s expected of them.”
Of the seven seniors lost from last season, three of them were team captains. William and Woodyard, Garret Campbell played on the offensive and defensive line, and cornerback/wide receiver Dalton Trimble, who was Honorable mention all-Kaw Valley at both positions, went on to Fort Scott Community College to continue his football career.
Troyer pointed to Mac Thompson, Lane Hecht and Michael Mast as players who all contributed behind Trimble and are back this season as juniors.
Meanwhile, interior linemen Samuel Sigourney and defensive lineman LeeRoi Johnson were both second team all Kaw Valley last season. Both juniors should be leaders on the offensive and defensive lines this season.
One unknown with just more than a week left until the season is what Troyer will do at quarterback.
“We’re still narrowing it down,” Troyer said. “But we will narrow it down to one guy.”
Junior Mason Beach started the first four games of the season last year until he broke his collarbone in week four. From there, senior Jordan Brown moved from running back to quarterback and the Chieftains became a ground and pound team.
Troyer made it clear he plans on making a decision at quarterback before Sept. 2 when THS hosts Spring Hill in the season opener.