Strafford will lean on an experienced and deep defense in 2018.
“Our defense is going to shut a lot of teams down,” Strafford head coach Tim Hester said. “They are tough. I want them (other teams) to say after the game is over that they are a tough team. That is our identity right now. Our defense is tough.”
That group will be led by all-region senior linebackers Trayson Lawler and Wyatt Maples. Lawler led the team with 108 total tackles while Maples was just behind him with 96 total tackles. Fellow senior Derick Holley is also back after pulling down 58 tackles and four sacks last season.
The secondary will feature Jake Rapp, Dillon Hester, Ian Bareis and Mason Foley. The defensive line will be comprised for Caleb Semple, Trever Razer, Kyle Pierce and Jade Holley.
Offensively, Strafford has several holes to fill after an 8-3 season.
Two-year starting quarterback Kensen White graduated and took 1,208 yards passing for 15 touchdowns with him along with another 409 yards on the ground. Leading rusher Drew Stoll also graduated after taking 115 carries for 850 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Wide receiver is one place that Strafford is set at with Hester and Foley returning. Hester led the team with 329 yards on 21 catches despite playing just seven games with a broken collarbone.
“He (Hester) is looking really good right now. He has gained some weight and increased in all his strength levels, speed and agility,” Hester said.
Foley caught a team-high 23 balls for 309 yards and four touchdowns.
Maples and Jacob Stow are battling for the quarterback position. Ian Bareis, Jared Kinder and Dakota Isabelle are all in the mix for carries in the backfield.
Derick Holley, Ryan Loftin, Pierce and Razer will anchor the offensive line.
Strafford’s schedule will have a little different look with Ash Grove, Marionville and Pleasant Hope leaving the Mid-Lakes while Forsyth joined.
“They are excited. It is a little bit different. We will have six home games, so they are pumped up about this year,” Hester said.
Hester’s overall goals for his team this year go beyond the wins and losses on Friday nights.
“(I want to see) team bonding and positive memories through wins or losses, and learning about life through the game of football and seeing the kids grow up and being good husbands and fathers. When they leave I want them to be good citizens and good character guys,” Hester said.
Strafford will travel to Hillcrest for a jamboree on Aug. 17 with the host Hornets, Springfield Central and Rogersville. The Indians open the season on Aug. 24 at home against Willow Springs.