The Greg O’Connor era at Cabool began last season, but was derailed by injuries.
“We had so many injuries. When we played Ava (Week 8) we only had 21 kids dressed out. We had nine standing on the sidelines and four of those nine were seniors,” O’Connor said.
Cabool finished the season 0-10, but put a big scare into a six-win Sarcoxie team in the first round of the district tournament where the Bulldogs led late in the game before falling 31-24.
This year, O’Connor has high hopes led by senior running back and linebacker Kenton Coonts. Coonts was honorable mention all-conference at running back last season.
“He works so hard and gives it everything he has got. We expect him to have a good year and be a leader on the offense. There is nobody that works harder or puts more heart into it. We expect him to have a good year and hopefully he does have a good year because he deserves it,” O’Connor said.
Shawn Smith, Dalton Overby and Adrian Ortega will share carries in the backfield as Cabool again will run a Wing-T offense.
The offensive line will be a strength for Cabool with four players with starting experience back. Josh Reese returns for his senior season as a three-year starter. Titus Atkins, Spencer Christeson and Daniel Brown all gained valuable experience last season as well. That quartet will also be the defensive line.
Senior Dallas Palmer will the quarterback this year.
Defensively, the Bulldogs graduated their entire secondary so that unit will be young and inexperienced in 2017.
The SCA conference schedule is great at preparing teams for postseason play, and O’Connor hopes for a healthy season in which his Bulldogs can make strides in district play.
“The hope is to be healthy by the time we hit districts and peak at the right time,” O’Connor said. “It you want to win our district the road goes through Thayer. Coach Webber does a great job down there. You have to beat the big green machine to win the district championship. If you are going to dream you might as well dream big and work hard for it.”
Cabool opens the season on Aug. 18 at Jefferson (Festus).