ASH GROVE, Mo. — The feeling among the Ash Grove Pirates was that 2015 ended prematurely. The Pirates lost to Diamond by a field goal in the first round of the Class 2, District 3 tournament.
That's been nothing but motivation this offseason.
Head Coach: Ryan Long
2015 Record: 5-5
Key Players: Chase White (QB), Josh Pipkin (LB/DL), Tyler Howell (LB/TE), Parker Soper (FS/HB), Paul Chavez (SS/HB), Trenton Climber (DL/NG)
"No one wants to go out in the first round of the playoffs and I think the kids left last year with a bad taste int heir mouths," head coach Ryan Long said. "I think they're going to use last year's loss to push them more in everything."
The Pirates graduated one of their most dynamic weapons in Jackson Bagley, but return a host of experience. Four starters are back on the offensive line, all of which are three-year starters, which will benefit junior quarterback Chase White. He'll be flanked by a host of returning skill position guys, and his ability to lead has impressed Long.
"He's like a coach on the field. I'm going to have the luxury of him making more checks at the line of scrimmage. He'll see stuff and come talk to me about it. He's going to be a fun kid to have and make my job easy offensively, I hope."
Riley Benton, Paul Chavez, and Parker Soper should all see their share of touches in Long's run-heavy sytem. White will also run plenty behind a line that the coach called quick ans savvy.
They key will be, as they say, letting everyone eat.
"We've got a ton of skill guys and I just have to find a way to get them all the ball in their hands. That's going to be the hard things."
The Pirates also bring back seven starters on a defense that allowed the fewest points (183) in the Mid-Lakes Conference during the regular season. Long was high on the unit and the change that could be seen with more upperclassmen.
"Unlike previous years, we have senior leadership. We've got six seniors starting on the defensive side, so this will be the first year we haven't had to start younger kids. We're excited about that."
If nothing else, that experience could pay dividends when district play rolls around again.
"When we do get to that point in the season, I think the kids will remember last year. They'll be excited to play that first-round opponent, whoever it may be, and they're going to come out on the winning side."
Ash Grove Travels to Houston to open the season on Aug. 19.