By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Athletics were good to Springfield Catholic High School last year. The Irish enjoyed district championships in football, baseball, boys tennis, girls soccer, a state basketball championship game appearance, an individual state golf champion, and another golfer that qualified for the U.S. Women’s Open.
Suffice it to say that no student at Catholic wants to stop now.
Many accolades were doled out on the gridiron as the Irish captured the Class 3, District 5 Championship and finished with a 10-3 mark after reaching the quarterfinals. Five players earned All-State honors, though none are back for the 2019 campaign.
“It’s always hard to replace good athletes. We had five kids that’ll play at the next level,” head coach Steve Hancock said. “However, we have a good core group that got a lot of experience last year. We also have an idea of what it’s like to be among Big 8 Conference schools. We may not have standout athletes like Tyson (Riley), but we have good depth and a bunch of kids that will step in and do a good job.”
The Irish return just over half their starters on each side of the ball. They do feature 12 seniors that will smooth over that process with a wealth of experience.
The aforementioned Riley was one of the best athletes to come through the halls of Catholic. He finished as the All Big 8 East Offensive Player of the Year while landing a First Team All-State nod at defensive back.
Now, as he prepares to play quarterback at Army, junior Will Squibb will take command under center. Squibb saw limited time under center last year as he completed three passes for 47 yards and touchdown. Hancock believes he has all the necessary strengths of a successful quarterback as he continues to grow physically.
“He may not be quite as big or strong as (Riley) yet, but he’s growing. If he’s not as powerful of a runner, he’s just as fast. He throws a nice ball and has a good skill set for what we want to do on offense.”
Despite the graduation of Nick Crites, that surname will remain in the Irish backfield. Senior Will Crites will join Zach Gebhard as the primary rushers after combining for 382 yards on 64 carries and two touchdowns in 2018.
A fact that would delight any coaches is that the strength of this team is in the trenches. Four All-Conference players return to the offensive and defensive lines: seniors Kye Alms, George Hall, Jake Childs, and Caden Cook. Those three play a big factor in Hancock’s high praise of his team leadership and experience.
On defense, Hall platoon the linebacking corps alongside Crites, an All Big 8 East Honorable Mention at the position.
Squibb will also return to the secondary with senior Peyton James, who should see an increased role on offense as well.
“We feel like we have good team speed,” said Hancock. “What worries us more than anything is our depth. We have to keep players healthy and on the field. We have enough experience that the kids can execute well early.”
Catholic had a respectable showing with a third place finish at the Branson 7-on-7 tournament in July. The team has seasoned pieces at key positions with their hands in the most successful run the program has seen in recent years. Hancock hopes the strengths that got this team rolling into last season will show themselves again in 2019.
“There is no substitute for success. It’s habit, just like losing. Two years ago, the kids started feeling it and realizing what they had to do to win games. Last year, they had the necessary confidence and experience to do what they did. This group also has that.”