Liberal football will have a different look this year after graduating a class of 10 seniors that won four total games in their first three seasons before breaking out with a seven-win season in their final year in 2017.
“That groups means a lot to Liberal Football. They helped lay the foundation for moving our program in the right direction,” Liberal head coach Matt McKee said. “Historically we haven’t been a great football program. That group put in the work to make themselves successful and were great role models for the younger kids in our program. They put up the second best record in school history and led us to winning our first playoff game in school history. They were a special group that will be missed and will be hard to replace.”
Liberal didn’t lose everybody with five offensive and six defensive starters returning.
Noah Harris leads those returning players coming off of a second-team all-conference selection at running back. Last year he rushed for 1,277 yards and 11 touchdowns on 200 carries. He also pulled down 32 total tackles with an interception at safety.
Senior Sean Clark will be charged will replacing graduated quarterback Jacob Dermott who threw for 1,346 yards and 17 touchdowns last year. Clark has been the backup quarterback for the past two seasons.
Fellow senior Weston Sprenkle will also be in the backfield at fullback and be relied upon for blocking help.
Clark will have plenty of help in the passing game with the return of top receiver Colby Selvey. Selvey led the team with 28 catches for 642 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Bryant Rose (senior) and Gunner Miller (sophomore) will also be factors at receiver.
The entire offensive line will be new this year, but senior Eli Satterfield and junior Wyatt Pearson are expected to be key pieces.
“(We) lost everyone (on the offensive line) to graduation. We have some capable kids that work hard, but they are inexperienced and there are bound to be some growing pains, but I’m confident that the kids we have will do a great job,” McKee said.
Defensively, Liberal will lead on its linebackers.
“We return five seniors at those spots. They all have a lot of experience and are sound football players that I expect to be the backbone of our defense,” McKee said.
The leaders of that group will be returning all-conference selections in Sprenkle and Selvey. Sprenkle, a second-team all-conference honoree, led the team with 125 tackles last season. Selvery, an honorable mention selection, tallied 71 total tackles. Clark along with Bryant Rose and Austin Dobbs round out the senior-laden linebacking corps.
Harris returns to start in the secondary and will be joined by Gunner Miller and other new faces. The defensive line will be a work in progress early with all five starters lost from that unit, but Pearson will see time at defensive end in addition to his duties on the offensive line.
Liberal will join the WEMO Conference this season after the SRVC dissolved at the end of last school year.
“I think the biggest thing is not being familiar with the most of the teams in the conference. When you play the same teams you know what to expect from year to year,” McKee said.
McKee’s expectations for his team remain steady despite the heavy graduation losses.
“I expect our kids to play hard and physical while representing our school and community in a positive manner,” McKee said. “We spend a lot time talking about working hard and trying to do things the right way. If we do that we believe success will come.”
Liberal opens the season on Aug. 24 at home against former SRVC rival Greenfield who returns to 11-man football this season after two years as an 8-man team.