By Chris Parker
Pierce City football will be looking for new players to step up this year after graduating a decorated senior class that went 38-7 over the past four years including 31-3 from their sophomore to senior year.
“Last year we lost to Thayer in the district championship with six seconds to go. We lost an outstanding senior class and it is time for our underclassmen to step up,” Pierce City head coach Brad Hocker said. “Some of our young kids got hurt last year and they lost much needed JV reps because of that. Those kids are hungry and ready to prove they can continue the success we have had in recent years. With the leadership of our senior class, I believe we can be competitive in every game on our schedule. Our kids are ready to surprise the conference.”
Four all-state players graduated from that senior group leaving four returning starters on each side of the ball and eight lettermen.
Senior Chanse Ford leads the returning players. Ford had 120 carries for 1,119 yards and 15 touchdowns on offense last year. Defensively, Ford will play linebacker. He had 51 total tackles and 13 tackles for a loss last year.
Seniors Kyle Renkoski and Tristan Cruz also return as two-way players. Both are wide receivers and defensive backs. Renkoski caught nine passes for 115 yards on offense last year while pulling down 35 total tackles on defense. Cruz had two catches for 73 yards and a touchdown on offense with 18 total tackles and an interception on defense.
Up front, Kalem Parrigon and Cody Hyde will be on the offensive line. Hyde will also return to the defensive line where he had 55 total tackles and 26 tackles for a loss last season.
Kyler Fenske (WR/DB), Levi Cooper (OL/DE), Jake Perry (OL/DL) and Frankie Ibarra (OL/DL) also return after earning letters last year.
Pierce City will rely on a host of newcomers that include: seniors Cole Salsman (OL/DL) and Paul Seufert (OL/DL); juniors Payton Moennig (WR/LB), Robert Wright (OL/DL) and Will Allen (OL/DL); sophomores Clayten O’Hara (QB/DB), Lincoln Johnson (LB/RB), Zane Clayton (LB/RB), Brian Canales (LB/OL), Lane Vannote (OL/DL) and Dylan Carman (OL/DL).
Offensive and defensive strengths will look similar this year according to Hocker.
“Our offensive strengths this year will be our quickness up front. We have some quick skilled positions and the kids are coachable. How quickly they gel will be important. They should be ready to step up. There is a lot of excitement to compete this season,” Hocker said. “Our defensive strengths will be the same as our offensive strengths. We have smart kids that will run to the ball. We have size but we are going to have to work on both sides of the ball when it comes to finishing plays. Conditioning will be key. We also need to work on tackling and alignment. Our kids work hard so I expect to see improvement.”
Pierce City will travel to Sarcoxie for a jamboree on Aug. 21 with Ash Grove, Lockwood and Sarcoxie. The Eagles will open the regular season on Aug. 28 at home against Lockwood.
If the new-look Eagles are to keep up the success of the past several years, they will need to focus on the basics according to Hocker.
“I am as about as old school as it gets. We simply need to become a better blocking and tackling team and eliminate turnovers. Our kids need to learn how to compete and finish plays,” Hocker said. “I believe we have the kids here at Pierce City to keep the program at a high level. We need to develop a work ethic that is second to none and learn accountability. If we can do that, I think we will be successful. If we don’t do that, the year will be a failure. I have told my assistants we need to do three things. One, get the kids enthused about playing football. Second, build them up. Finally, the third thing will be coach them up.”