By Brock Sisney (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
SARCOXIE — The Sarcoxie Bears return 11 players with starting experience from a 5-5 team last season, one that ended on a 28-8 loss to Cabool in the first round of the Class 1 playoffs.
The Bears open their 2020 season Aug. 28 at home against Houston. The Missouri Football Coaches Association issued a release July 14 that recommended teams keep all activities, practices, and scrimmages in-house and to avoid interaction with other teams, and the MFCA also recommended the elimination of the jamborees traditionally held the week before the start of the season.
“Our team strengths are speed and athleticism,” sixth-year Sarcoxie head coach Russell Ellis said. “This will be one of the most athletic bunches that we have had in my time here. We will be young but athletic.
“Our team goals are to be extremely physical, disciplined, and finish games. We want to establish both our physicality and speed early in games to let our opponents know that our team is here to play all four quarters of smash mouth football.
“The biggest key to success will be our ability to play at the level we expect at a consistent level. We will have a lot of young kids on the field, which can sometimes hurt you at the varsity level. If we can play hard and can keep that high level of consistent play, we will have chances to win every game.”
Junior running back and linebacker Drake Acheson (5-foot-10, 180 pounds), senior offensive and defensive lineman Colby Lee (5-10, 230), senior fullback and linebacker Dylan Heckmaster (5-8, 170), senior running back and defensive lineman Justin Mandera (5-9, 205), senior running back and linebacker Christian Harter (5-9, 160), senior receiver and defensive back Michael Misner (6-3, 175), junior offensive lineman and linebacker Tyler Cupp (5-10, 160), junior running back and linebacker Terio Asterio (5-9, 170), junior offensive and defensive lineman Kenneth Guenzel (6-1, 210), and senior receiver and defensive back Chance Kyle (5-10, 185) are returning starters.
“Dylan Heckmaster has played every year of his high school career,” Ellis said. “It is his senior year and he has really shown the leadership qualities that every coach wants in his players. He is a great young man who works extremely hard. He is trustworthy, reliable, and demands perfection from himself and the other guys on the field. He wants to win just as much as any kid, but what sets him apart from others is his want to leave the program in a better place than when he joined it. He is a true program kid.
“Michael Misner was a first-year player for us last year as a junior. He has emerged as one of our most explosive players on offense. Defensively, he has gotten more physical and understands the game at a quicker rate than last year. He has not missed one weight room session and has stepped up as one of our leaders both on and off the field.”
Acheson claimed all-Southwest Conference second team honors at linebacker for a sophomore campaign that included a team-high 87 tackles and three sacks. Acheson, who rushed for 208 yards and three scores on the offensive side, returned an interception for a touchdown and he recorded 150 yards.
Offensively, Mandera rushed for 500 yards and eight TDs and Heckmaster added 353 more yards and one TD.
Meanwhile, junior running and defensive back Euk Pedro (5-7, 175), sophomore quarterback and defensive back Jaron Malotte (5-9, 165), sophomore receiver and defensive back Ethan Lee (5-10, 150), sophomore lineman Sammy Zamora (5-11, 200), and sophomore lineman Kayden Triplett (6-4, 280) all earned some playing time last season.
“Ethan Lee and Jaron Malotte played every special team last year as freshmen,” Ellis said. “These two guys have come on strong this summer. They are working extremely hard and have made their presence known on offense and defense. I look for both of these two to make noise as sophomores.
“We have several kids on the offensive line that will be making that transition to starters. Kobe Heinz, Kayden Triplett, and Sammy Zamora have really matured and worked extremely hard in the weight room to this point. They will lead the way for us both offensively and defensively up front.”
Offensively, probable starters are Malotte at quarterback, Heckmaster and Mandera at fullback, Acheson, Asterio, and Harter at running back, Misner, Ethan Lee, and Kyle at receiver, and Kenneth Guenzel (left tackle), Triplett (left guard), Heinz (center), Colbe Lee (right guard), and Zamora (right tackle). On the defensive side, it’s Colbe Lee, Mandera, and Zamera up front, Acheson and Cupp at inside linebacker, Heckmaster and Harter on the outside, and Malotte, Misner, Ethan Lee, Pedro, and Kyle in the secondary.