SMNW football looks to build off of three-win improvement from 2017 season
The Shawnee Mission Northwest football team took a big jump forward in 2017 by posting a 4-5 record after back-to-back 1-8 seasons.
While the Cougars are hoping to build off of some of the positive things that fueled them to a three-win improvement last season, Bo Black’s squad doesn’t want to get caught fixating on the past. The Cougars will try to get off to a fast start to the 2018 campaign when they take on SM West at 7 tonight at SM South.
“Our kids have done a really good job and we’ve worked extremely hard. We’ve got a good group of kids out that we feel that we can build upon a few things that we started last year,” Black said. “We’ve come a long ways in four years and our kids understand how to practice and what it takes to be successful. We’re excited like everybody else in the state just to go play against a different colored jersey and find out what we have.”
One thing Black knows that he does have is a younger football team than he’s had in years past. Black has been impressed with the energy of his team in practice, and he’s hopeful that they’ll play with the same mind-set tonight against the Vikings.
“We think they’re coming together really good. I think the biggest thing we’ve had to do is step back numerous times already is just realize how young we are,” Black said. “We’re going to play a freshman, a sophomore, two juniors and we’ve got one senior returning on the offensive line. We’re just extremely young up there.”
Black lauded the leadership of senior offensive guard/defensive end Dylan Brunner for setting a positive example to other Cougars who will be battling in the trenches. The SM Northwest offensive line will be tasked with trying to protect sophomore quarterback Ty Black. The Cougars’ signal caller will be stepping in for two-year starter Spencer Stewart, who transferred to Platte County for his senior season.
“He’s done extremely well and he knows the offense. The biggest thing you will see with that is just inexperience,” Bo Black said. “It’s the same inexperience that’s everywhere else. It’s just a little bit more noticeable at quarterback. I’m excited to see how he performs — not only as the head football coach, but obviously as his father, too.”
Ty Black will also have a new-look receiving corps to dish the ball out to. Seniors Peyton Carder and Dale Talley will give the sophomore quarterback two lengthy targets on the outside. Carder is at full-strength after being sidelined last fall with a knee injury, while Talley is back on the gridiron for the first time since his freshman year. Another SM Northwest senior will line up right behind Ty Black, as Jamie Alexander returns for the Cougars in the backfield.
Carder, Brunner and Alexander are slated to get extended action with playing on both sides of the ball, which is something that Bo Black is trying to shift away from. The three seniors will look to make an impact at each level on defense with Brunner on the defensive line, Alexander at linebacker and Carder at safety.
“Outside of that, everybody is on one side of the ball. It just allows us to get more reps and better every day,” Bo Black said. “Dylan along with those other two that are playing both ways are definitely some leaders in different ways, but in leadership roles nevertheless.”
Bo Black knew it would be crucial for the Cougars to bond together as much as possible on and off the field over the summer in order to be prepared for this fall. The Cougars were at it early and often over the summer with various camps and 7-on-7 scrimmages.
“We had our camp the day after Memorial Day. Then we went to KU for a couple of days and went out to Fort Hays State for three days,” Black said. “We had a few scrimmages in Olathe at ODAC with some of the Olathe schools. We had a lot of football early. Once again it’s kids that have worked extremely hard to get ready as we start on Thursday.”
The Cougars’ Week 1 opponent will be more than motivated to strap on their helmets tonight, as the Vikings will try to put a winless 2018 season behind them. Bo Black has emphasized to his players that last year’s results won’t mean anything when they take the field tonight.
“It’s a rivalry game, but no matter how close you are to them and what you know about them from the year before, it’s still a brand new year. You’re going in, like every other team in the state, and going off of what they did last year and kind of having an idea of what you’ve seen in scrimmages and when you exchange film,” the SM Northwest coach said. “The bottom line is that it’s a brand new year. Anything can happen in Week 1. You just never know.”