McDonald County had a turnaround season in coach Kellen Hoover’s first year as head coach last season. The Mustangs finished with five wins after mustering just three total wins in the previous four seasons combined.
“All the credit goes to a group of seniors that bought into doing the little things that it takes to be successful and competing each and every day,” Hoover said. “They brought leadership and toughness every single day that instilled a confidence in the rest of the team.”
That strong season has helped translate into better numbers this offseason.
“Our numbers through offseason workouts and camp have been up from last year,” Hoover said. “It’s been exciting to see this group of returning players develop physically and as leaders this summer and I know they are hungry to get this season started.”
Six offensive starters return from last season’s team.
Hoover will have to replace quarterback Peyton Barton who threw for 1,000 yards and added another 454 on the ground. Ben Mora will step in as a dual threat quarterback.
Oakley Roessler will move from wide receiver to the backfield this season. Last year he caught 19 balls for 306 yards while rushing for 157 yards on 32 carries. He was also an all-conference defensive back where he pulled down 65 tackles.
“Oakley will be a key contributor on both sides of the ball,” Hoover said. “I expect Oakley to be the catalyst for our offense. He has tremendous speed, so we will look to try to move him around in our offense try to put him in a position to use that speed in space. We are also counting on him to be a versatile defender that can play over the top but also walk into the box when the situation calls for it.”
Seniors Reece Cooper, Marshall Foreman, Micah Burkholder along with junior Keegan Driscoll and sophomore Trent Alik will be key pieces at wide receiver.
First-team all-conference offensive lineman Elliott Wolfe returns to lead the charge up front.
“We are lucky to have Elliott back up front for us both as a player and a leader,” Hoover said. “He is always striving to get better, and he pushes those around him to do the same. He has continued to get stronger and I am excited to see what he can do as a senior.”
Seniors Tanner Harnar and Will Gordon will join Wolfe on the offensive line along with junior Tryston Leach and sophomore Kaidan Campbell.
“Our biggest strength will be our group up front,” Hoover said. “They return with a lot of experience and have worked extremely hard this offseason. They have had a season to gel and work together and I know we will have to lean on them and our ground game especially early this season.”
Defensively five starters return for the Mustangs. It will be a unit with good speed.
“I think we will have good team speed at all three levels of the defense,” Hoover said. “We hope our improved speed allows us to rally to the football with relentless effort and consistently stop our opponent.”
Roessler will be joined by Marshall Foreman (senior), Zach Woods (senior), Michael Williams (junior) and Trent Alik (sophomore).
The defensive line will be comprised of the senior quartet of Nolen Baisch, Dylan Akins, Payton McKee and Micah Burkholder.
The linebacking corps will be completely new to the varsity level and comprised of seniors Joe Brown and Rendon Lane along with junior Jack Teague.
McDonald County will be a part of the Big 8 West this season, as the Mustangs look to build off of last season.
“I expect our team to continue to compete every day until it becomes a habit,” Hoover said. “I expect to see us take that competitive fire into practice and into games and display tremendous toughness as we fight through any adversity together. We hope to build off a good first step that we took as a program last year as we continue to build our culture and instill a winner’s mindset.”
McDonald County opens the season on Aug. 24 at Marshfield.