Sarcoxie has been on the rise in recent years. The Bears won two games in coach Russell Ellis’ first season followed by a six-win season last year that ended with a district semifinal loss to Ash Grove.
This year the Bears have a shot to make another leap behind star senior Chris Comerford. Comerford was the SRVC Offensive Player of the Year as a junior where he was First-Team All-SRVC at quarterback, defensive back and Kick Returner
“We put him at quarterback his sophomore year. It was struggle, but I knew what he was capable of and he knew too. Last year was proof of the hard work he put in,” Ellis said. “This year we want to build on what he accomplished last year. He has done a great job of being a leader for us not only on the field but in the weight room. He is a real selfless kid who doesn’t get too worried about individual stats.”
Comerford rushed for 1,149 yards and 14 touchdowns to go with another 350 yards and four touchdowns through the air a year ago. He also had two kickoff returns for touchdowns from 99 yards and 65 yards out. Defensively, he tallied 105 total tackles with three interceptions and five pass break-ups.
Raul Reyes is a second returning senior for Sarcoxie that garnered several First-Team All-SRVC selections. The 5’9, 230-pound lineman was first team on both the offensive and defensive lines.
“At our level that size of kid with his type of feet is a huge asset. We are definitely going to be running behind him quite a bit,” Ellis said.
Reyes was also first team kicker and punter.
“There is a lot of stock in that kid as far as his leg goes. Putting points on the board when your drive stalls always helps; it is a big momentum shift,” Ellis said.
He made 34 of 36 extra points as well as knocking through four total field goals with two of them coming from outside of 40 yards.
Devon Middleton is the final returning Sarcoxie player that earned all-conference honors. He was second team at both wide receiver and defensive back.
The Bears run a flex bone offense focused on the run. Junior Christian Garrison will be moving to fullback this season. Nathan Ogle and Stephen Guccione will play left and right wing to round out the backfield.
Joining Raul Reyes on the line will be 6’2, 300-pound Keaton McClintock and returning starting center Devon Nordell. The left side of the line will feature a mixture of Nate Balwdin, Landon Malotte and Hunter Acheson.
All three returning all-conference players will help anchor the defensive line and secondary.
The middle of the defense will be led by 6’2, 210-pound senior Alfred Velasquez at linebacker.
“He is a tough kid. He is strong in the weight room and a very physical specimen,” Ellis said. “He will definitely be our anchor in the middle.”
Sophomore Kendrick Bass will join him at linebacker.
Sarcoxie came up just short of winning an SRVC title last year. Ellis hopes his team will remain in the mix this year.
“Our expectations are to give ourselves a chance to win a football game. We aren’t going to look too far ahead because when you look ahead you forget the moment,” Ellis said. “Hopefully we can put ourselves in a situation where we at least have a shot to win the conference.”
Sarcoxie will travel to its jamboree on Friday, Aug. 11 at Ash Grove and face the host Pirates along with Lockwood and Lighthouse Christian.
The Bears open their season on Aug. 18 at Jasper.