By Chris Roberts
Globe Staff Writer
SENECA, Mo. - Go hard, do your best and show up for every play.
It's a lesson Chris Yust and Jarrett Cook learned during their four-year tenures as Seneca High School football players.
Now, more than a decade after their first year with the team, Yust and Cook are back at SHS as coaches, imparting those same lessons to a new flock of players.
"It's the same with life as it is with football," Yust said. "I like (coaching) because I can see that develop within them as players and as people."
Yust, a guard and inside linebacker, and Cook, a fullback, played for the Indians during the four-year span of 1992-95. Yust is entering his third year as a coach for the team, specializing in the offensive line, while Cook enters his second year as a defensive line coach.
"I've always thought about wanting to coach," Cook said. "After playing at Missouri Southern (State University) for four years, I never wanted to leave Seneca. This town definitely has a football mentality. They eat and sleep for it here. If you lose, you pay for it, and if you win, you get plenty of praise for it."
Both said the lessons they learned while playing at SHS have helped them in life and in their careers. And, both said it's the opportunity to pass those lessons along that draws them back to the football field every year.
"This sport teaches you about life and adversity," said Cook, who played linebacker for Missouri Southern. "Sometimes you get hurt and you have to play through. Sometimes you lose, but do you quit? No. You make goals and always go for that end product, and you always take something out of what you've just done.
"I like being with the kids because I can share what I've taken from football. Some of them may not be stars on the field, but they are part of something bigger than them, and I love to see them really gel together, even if sometimes it takes a whole season."
Seneca matches up tonight against a Carthage team with a new head coach. Yust said he's been trying to prepare his offensive line for a proper mentality both in practice and at game time.
"I like football because it's a team mentality," he said. "You have to have every 11 guys every play. That's what we're trying to teach these guys: Go hard, do your best and show up for every play."
Cook said it's equally important for his defensive linemen to be prepared to play as soon as they step on the field, regardless of whether it's a game or a practice.
"It can be hard to focus, but we're really trying to get them to quit thinking about Sally back home," he said. "Carthage will be a task for us, but we take each game and each team as a championship team. We've just got to make sure we're ready to play."
Both Yust and Cook are optimistic about the team's chances this season. Last year, Seneca went 12-1 and reached the state semifinals. Both coaches said replacing some veteran players who graduated will be tough, but they have confidence in their new players and in the coaching staff.
"We've got a great bunch of kids and a very knowledgeable coaching staff," Cook said. "The new guys are stepping it up, too. They always seem to turn our heads."
By Chris Roberts