Nevada joins the Big 8 Conference West Division this year coming off of a 5-6 season. Last year was coach Wes Beachler’s first in his second stint as head coach of Nevada.
This year the Tigers will have to replace their entire group of skill players on offense after the graduation of their quarterback, three leading rushers and top three pass catchers.
Beachler’s squad will lean on an experienced offensive line as the Tigers return three all-conference linemen in seniors Peyton Denney, Caleb Longobardi and Treyton Fleeman. Denney earned third-team all-state honors as well. Fellow senior Spencer Hawkins also returns to the line after lettering last season. Senior Tristan Mitchem and sophomore Wesley Balk are competing to finish out the offensive line. Much of that group will comprise the defensive line as well with Balk playing some linebacker.
“It is a relief (having an experienced line). I keep telling my offensive line coach to enjoy this year because we will have a lot of work to do next year. Three of our returning offensive linemen garnered postseason recognition in some capacity. It is nice to have that,” Beachler said. “It makes things easier up front and you can also cover some holes. Those three are so good and understand the offense so well they will be able to help out some guys who are inexperienced early in the season.”
The skill positions are a work in progress with three players in Matt Thorp, Dylan Beachler and Ty Thomas competing for the quarterback spot. Jaren Powrie looks to be the favorite to be the tailback. Kaden Denney and Colin Witte are looking to fill out the wingback spot. Connor Poe and Ethan Couch are in the mix at fullback. Riley Trotter will see time at tight end on the defensive line.
Defensively, Tanner Gotschall will lead the way in the secondary coming off of an all-region season as a junior. He led the team in tackles with 50 and pulled down two interceptions last season at safety.
“He is just a good leader. He loves to hit people, so he will come up and make some tackles,” Beachler said. “He is very good in coverage too as you mentioned. He is just one of those kids who has a knack for finding the ball.”
Justin Guy returns after earning a letter last season and will likely join Gotschall at safety. Jaren Powrie, Kaden Denney, Ty Thomas and Dylan Beachler are competing to fill out the secondary at cornerback.
The linebacking corps will be completely new with the graduations of Hunter Mason, Zach Gardner and Trevor Olson. Mason is playing FCS football at Western Illinois this fall, while Gardner is playing for Benedictine.
Wesley Balk, Matt Thorp, Jace Lee and Ethan Couch are all competing to fill out the second level of Nevada’s defense.
The Tigers join the expanded Big 8 this season in the West Division. While the Big 8 will be new for Nevada, it will bring some familiarity for the Tigers’ coach.
“One thing I really enjoyed about being at Republic and in the COC was the matchups on Friday night with some really good football teams and coaches. After being in the WCC there are some really good football teams up north by Kansas City, but I know all the guys in southwest Missouri,” Beachler said. “We know what Lamar has done, what Cassville can do, what Monett has done recently and Mt. Vernon last year making it to the state championship with their legendary coach (Tom Cox). It is going to be fun on Friday nights because you are going to play good teams and see good coaches every Friday night, so you have to be ready to play.”
Overall, the key to Nevada’s success in their first Big 8 season will hinge on how well the offensive and defensive fronts play.
“Our experienced offensive and defensive lines have to play like they are experienced. They are going to help out the young guys,” Beachler said. “We have some underclassmen that are going to be on the field in skill positions, the defensive secondary and possibly linebacker, and if the guys up front play the way they are capable of it will help those (young) guys come along a lot quicker.”
Beachler hopes for success on the field this year, but also wants to be sure his players develop off the field as well.
“When we see where these young men are five and 10 years down the road after they get out of high school, then we will really see what kind of impact we had on them with what kind of men they are, what kind of dads they are and what kind of citizens they are. Those are the things that really matter. As long as they buy in, work hard and play football to the best of their God-given ability on Friday night then we will let the rest take care of itself,” Beachler said.
Nevada opens the season on Aug. 24 at Reeds Spring.