Veteran squad: Tonganoxie High football returns numerous starters
Tonganoxie High entered 2018 in some unchartered territory.
The squad was coming off an undefeated regular season, the program’s first in 55 years.
Trying to emulate that would be no easy task. THS opened the season 0-2 against two salty opponents in Basehor-Linwood and Louisburg.
Tonganoxie then knocked off Eudora before finding itself down 26-7 to Bonner Springs in Week 4. THS erased that deficit with 21 unanswered points on its way to a thrilling victory. That sparked what would be a seven-game winning streak for THS before the Chieftains fell to Frontier League foe Paola in the second round of the playoffs. Now the Chieftains plan to build on that 7-3 record with a class of 13 seniors leading the charge in 2019.
“It’s a great group of leaders,” said THS coach Al Troyer. “Thirteen seniors. That helps.”
The Chieftains have some notable contributors in that class, from Connor Searcy, who is coming back from a season-ending injury last year, to Cooper Cunningham, who is expected to contribute heavily as a free safety and running back. And then there’s standout Cole Sample, who has been an anchor in that defensive line and a big contributor on the offensive line also.
Troyer also expects others to be key contributors, such as senior Elijah Tyner and junior Dallas Bond.
Tonganoxie returns eight on offense and six on defense, so there’s a large nucleus back from 2018.
THS, of course, will have some shoes to fill, such as standout running back Korbin Riedel, quarterback Hayden Robbins and back Drake Pray.
THS “won” all three of its exhibition match-ups this past Friday at its first jamboree, a preseason event KSHSAA recently approved. Teams run 12 offensive and 12 defensive plays against each other.
Tonganoxie defeated Lansing, Paola and Kansas City Washington in those scrimmages. Troyer said it was good for Kansas to catch up with other states in allowing the preseason intersquad scrimmages.
He also likes what he sees from his veteran team as the younger players continue to move into their roles.
Troyer expects paola and Louisburg to be potential contenders in the Frontier League, with Piper being a possible sleeper. He also said Bonner Springs always has athletes, so the Braves shouldn’t be ruled out. And Spring Hill enters the season with 90 players on the roster.
THS opens the season at 7 p.m. Friday with a big contest against archival Basehor-Linwood. The Bobcats, like the Chieftains, are considered in the Top 10 of Class 4A teams according to various publications.
The game also will mark the first football game on the new Beatty Field turf.