Lebanon lost seven defensive starters and four offensive starters from last season’s 7-4 team that lost 27-13 to Ozark in the Class 5, District 4 semifinals to end the season.
Leading the returning players is senior John Berry at running back who was second team all-state as a junior. Berry missed two games as a junior due to injury, but he still managed to tally 1,392 yards and 17 touchdowns on 177 total carries. That is a per-game average of 154.7 yards.
Fellow seniors Hunter Bray and Cole McBride will join Berry in the backfield. Bray was second on the team with 583 rushing yards while McBride chipped in 196 yards on 50 carries.
Cole Breeden is back at quarterback after throwing for 640 yards and 11 touchdowns to go with 574 yards rushing and nine touchdowns as a junior.
His top target Jack Ehrhardt graduated, but seniors Will Richardson, Keaton Winfrey and Dominic Evans all gained starting experience as juniors and will step up to fill the void.
Losing third team all-state lineman Colby Lathrop will be a blow up front, but the Jackets have experience back outside of that loss. Seniors Korbin Smith (6’0, 265 lbs), Wyatt Stone (6’0, 260 lbs), Rylan Hoard (6’2, 285 lbs) and Jacob Ruble (5’10, 235 lbs) all started at least three games last season and return.
Defensively, Lebanon has to rebuild a bit with just four starters returning. Jack Ehrhardt (defensive back), Hayden Weddle (linebacker) and Brock Reeves (defensive line) all earned Second Team All-Ozark Conference honors in their senior seasons. Ehrhardt was also first-team all-state.
Senior Cannon York is the lone returning all-conference selection on the defense as he was second team at defensive end as a junior. He had 19 total tackles with two sacks last season.
Seniors McBride (defensive back), Michael Appleberry (linebacker) and Mark Webster (defensive end) are the other three returning players who started at least nine games on defense. McBride had 34 tackles and one interception last season. Both numbers lead the returning players.
Juniors Ry Evans (linebacker), Jayden Ivey (safety) and Ty Glendenning (safety) all three started at times last year to boost up experience coming back on the defensive side of the ball.
Lebanon has a wealth of experience led by is 21-man senior class that has had success at all levels of their high school careers.
“Our kids have worked very hard and have shown great improvement in the weight room. With a great group returning on offense our expectations are high,” Lebanon head coach Will Christian said. “Our to-be senior class has been 8-1 as freshman and 8-1 as JV players, which doesn’t always imply varsity success, however does show me this group is a winner. I think we will have excellent leadership and with excellent groups coming behind our seniors, we will have nice depth.”
Lebanon will travel to Mount Vernon for its jamboree on Friday, Aug. 11 and take on the host along with Republic and Neosho.
The Yellow Jackets open the season on Aug. 18 at home against Rolla.