Aurora football will have stability heading into the 2018 season after Craig Weldy took over last season to give Aurora its third head coach in four seasons. The Houn’ Dawgs finished with a 5-5 record in a season that ended with a district loss to eventual state runner-up Mt. Vernon.
One piece of transition the Houn’ Dawgs will have today is a move to the Big 8 East Division with tradition rival Mt. Vernon along with former COC Small schools Hollister, Marshfield, Rogersville Catholic and Reeds Spring.
“It is a transition year for our program going into what is now the Big 8 Eastern Division. New opponents will create new rivalries along with the crossover games with traditional rivals from the Big 8 West. Our traditional rivalry with Mt. Vernon will always be a big game and Reeds Springs has emerged as a power team in the East side but you just cannot overlook anyone,” Weldy said.
Eight starters return for the Houn’ Dawgs on offense. Aurora has to replace first-team all-conference quarterback JD Lee along with first-team all-conference wide receiver and defensive back Clayton Dunning.
Logan Lauffer will be a key offensive threat for Aurora out of the backfield after he was second on the team in rushing (407 yards, six touchdowns) and receiving (424 yards and three touchdowns). He earned second-team all-conference honors as an all-purpose player. The senior was also honorable mention as a return specialist.
Fellow senior Kaden Clark will give Aurora two second-team all-conference returners on offense at tight end. He had 20 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns last year.
Colson Husmann will be an anchor on the offensive and defensive lines for Aurora. Noah Barnum and James Conran will join Husmann on both the offensive and defensive lines. Juniors Dakota Browning and Clayton Cordova are newcomers to both the offensive and defensive lines.
Jay Lee is competing to replace his brother at quarterback after starting on the junior varsity last season. Isaac Martinez is battling for snaps at both running back and wide receiver. Austin Hartwigsen is also competing for the quarterback spot along with snaps at wide receiver.
“We aren’t going to be a team with a lot of size. Not unlike our last year’s team, so we will rely on quickness, speed and great conditioning to help us be in a position to win games, especially in the fourth quarter,” Weldy said. “We will need to be balanced again on offense in our run and passing game. Last year we were 57% run and 43% pass. We will work to become even more balanced but we need more productivity out of our run game in yards gained per outing.”
The defense will be anchored by Clark at middle linebacker. He was third on the team with 90 total tackles and two sacks. Casey Weathermon will return as a starting linebacker in addition to fullback on offense. Dalton Thornton and Peyton Weathermon also should see time at linebacker.
Martinez returns to the secondary after leading that unit in interceptions with four to go with his 77 tackles. Dylon Clayton and Ethan Mooneyham should also see time at defensive back.
“As always every Friday night’s contest will be a huge challenge,” Weldy said. “Southwest Missouri high school football has been and is steeped in great traditions, tough competition and great pride. It’s an honor to get to be a part of these young men’s lives and to watch them improve as football players and grow into men.”
Aurora will have its jamboree on Aug. 17 at Branson with Branson, Reeds Spring and McDonald County. The Houn’ Dawgs will open their season on Aug. 24 at home against Cassville.