By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
2017 was the type of season that Thayer fans have grown accustomed to over the last half decade, with the Bobcats dropping a few regular season games only to rebound by “upsetting” their way through district play before running into Class 1 power Valle Catholic.
Thayer has won district championships in two of its last three seasons, with all three campaigns coming to an end at the hands of Valle Catholic.
But, in head coach Billy Webber’s 19th season at the helm, the Bobcats return enough to again be considered a major player in Class 1, led by two-way standout Ayden Stone.
“Returning Ayden Stone is a huge plus for us,” said Webber. “He has a good understanding of our scheme. He had a really good summer camp, making some really good reads and good plays for us. He is one of our senior leaders.”
Stone, one of Thayer’s five returning offensive starters, will not only lineup under center for Thayer, but he’s also one of the program’s five defensive starters back in 2018. The Bobcats pitched four shutouts a year ago and kept four other opponents to two touchdowns or less.
Webber is excited about the experience he has returning this season on both sides of the ball.
Seniors Jace Matteson and Tyler Johnston will anchor the line for Thayer. Webber is also excited but 6-foot-4 tight end Dylan Spencer, who he describes as “a great blocker and that provides a big target in our passing game. He will also be returning on the defensive side of the ball. He did a great job last year at outside linebacker in coverage for us.”
In addition to Stone and Spencer, Blake Meizler will also help solidify the linebacking corps. He will also see carries at running back. Senior Braden Huffstedler and sophomore Jayce Haven will set the tone for the secondary with Huffstedler starting at corner and Haven returning to his safety spot. Both guys will also start at receiver.
There will be several newcomers in starting spots for Webber as well.
“We lose some key players for us in the box on defense and on the offensive line,” said Webber. “We will need some younger guys to challenge themselves to get better and fill those roles for us.”
Senior Dillion Poulette and sophomore Jordan Madden are expected to receive carries offensive and also make plays at linebacker and safety respectively. Sophomore Logan Doss will have the very unique combination of running back and defensive lineman.
Junior Cody Brosh and sophomore Bobby Dale could end up being two-way starters on the offensive and defensive line. Juniors Chase Cates and Arthur Tate will also see reps at linebacker, with Cates playing some offensive line and Tate playing some receiver.
Webber has been impressed with the continued development from his newcomers due to their willingness to work hard throughout the offseason.
Thayer’s success this season will again hinge on its ability to navigate a brutal conference schedule healthy. Being one of few Class 1 programs in a primarily Class 2-3 conference makes depth and numbers a concern. But, that grind is also why Thayer is one of Missouri’s premier Class 1 units.
Webber is hopeful that the SCA slate will have his team ready to make a postseason run yet again.
“The SCA is a rugged conference with several good programs. We must play our best football every week, which helps prepare us for district play.”
The Bobcats open the 2018 season at home against Hayti on Aug. 24.