Sarcoxie has had a successful run over the last several years and went 9-2 last year behind a strong senior class led by Chris Comerford and Raul Reyes.
Comerford rushed for 1,600 yards and 24 touchdowns and threw for another 405 yards while pulling down 85 tackles on defense. He was first-team all-region at quarterback, defensive back and returner.
Reyes played on the offensive line and had 73 tackles with six sacks and three fumble recoveries on defense. He was also one of the area’s best kickers with 25 touchbacks and six made field goals with a long of 50 yards. He earned first-team all-region honors on the offensive and defensive lines as well as at kicker.
Both players earned all-state honors as well.
“That senior class got a lot of playing time as freshmen and sophomores. They kind of got their heads beat in a little bit, but stuck through the process. They helped paved the road for hopefully Sarcoxie always being competitive and having a chance to win some championships,” Sarcoxie head coach Russell Ellis said. “That class definitely bought in and did everything we asked of them and really set a good example. They placed that bar up there for where we need to be in the future.”
Things this year will start up front behind senior Landon Malotte on the offensive line. Malotte earned first-team all-conference honors last season.
“Landon is a solid player and great kid. He is going to be a huge part of whether we are successful or not because it starts for us up front,” Ellis said.
The offensive line will be rounded out by Nate Baldwin, Hunter Acheson, Keaton McClintock, Ryan Holocker and likely Gage Weist.
“We are going to lean on our offensive line. That is where we have a majority of our experience. We are going to try to establish our run game behind those big (players),” Ellis said. “This will be the biggest offensive line I have ever coached in my career.”
That group will also comprise much of the defensive line.
Senior Christian Garrison will see an expanded role in the backfield as well as return to his linebacker spot this season.
“Christian is a tough kid. He is a true competitor. We are going to look for him to be one of our playmakers,” Ellis said. “He came on strong down the stretch (last season) when we needed him and kept us in some ballgames. He really highlighted a lot of things. When teams tried to take away Chris (Comerford) he stepped up and really filled that role. I look for him to take off even more this year.”
Junior Kendrick Bass will be the will be the fullback in the triple option offense.
Haydon Kisling take over for Comerford at quarterback in his junior season.
“He (Kisling) is an extremely intelligent kid. He is one of the smartest kids we have on our team,” Ellis said. “He has a great arm. I think we will be able to be more explosive with his decision-making throwing the ball down the field.”
Stephen Guccione, Christian Velasquez and Nate Ogle will factor in on the edges in the passing game.
Garrison will be joined at linebacker by Ogle, Bass and Holocker. Kisling, Velasquez and Guccione will be the key players in the secondary.
Sarcoxie will leave the SRVC for the new Southwest Conference this season, which will provide the team with more opportunities at all levels of competition.
“I am a huge fan of it (the Southwest Conference),” Ellis said. “This will be my fourth year here, and we have had 35 plus kids every year. We were having to play 8-man. So we were having to install and 8-man offense and defense and not able to play all of our kids. It was pretty frustrating at times. I am a huge advocate for it because our numbers are good. I am glad our kids will be able to play 11-man from junior high all the way to junior varsity and varsity.”
SRVC rivals Diamond, Lockwood, Miller and Pierce City along with former Mid-Lakes schools Ash Grove, Marionville and Pleasant Hope.
The Bears will look to keep the momentum of last season going into this year.
“We are just going to talk one game at a time. If we can somehow give ourselves a chance week in and week out then hopefully come Week 9 we will have a chance to win a championship,” Ellis said. “That is what we talk about; having a championship mentality. Each week and every day play like a champion, train like a champion and practice like a champion. Hopefully when those lights come on it translates to success.”
Sarcoxie will host a jamboree on Aug. 17 with Ash Grove, Lockwood, Lighthouse Christian, Pierce City and Stockton. The Bears open the regular season on Aug. 24 at home against Houston.