The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

June 27, 2012

Area football teams see improvement in 7-on-7 league

GALENA, Kan. — Columbus head coach Dan Grundy could see for himself the possibilities ahead when the Titans prepare for football season later this summer.

Grundy watched intently as his players took part in the seven-on-seven passing league that wrapped up Tuesday night at Galena High School.

“We’ve seen major growth out of our kids, especially quarterback,” Grundy said. “They get a chance to see the field without the linemen in there. It’s not a game setting, but they get to see what they want to do.”

Columbus joined Galena, Baxter Springs and Riverton as the four Kansas teams in the league. Oklahoma was represented by Commerce, Quapaw, Fairland and Wyandotte.

Columbus will have plenty of experience returning on its lines, led by Gavin Houser, a 6-foot, 215-pound senior who was an honorable mention all-state selection last year.

The offensive backfield, however, will have a lot of new faces. Justin Graham, a junior, is competing with sophomore Nate Bole to be the starting quarterback.

“We graduated a lot of seniors,” Grundy said. “We’re very young. We’re going to have a lot of growth this year.”

Grundy also is working with a new member of his coaching staff. Chris Endress, who was an assistant at Hutchinson last year, is the team’s defensive coordinator. He replaces line coach Blake Burns, who joined the staff in Riverton, where he teaches.

“This is the first change in my four years,” Grundy said. “It’s a win-win. He gets to coach where he teaches, and I get a coach who I know and trust.”

The seven-on-seven league also gave head coaches, including Galena’s Beau Sarwinski, an opportunity to evaluate young players.

“It’s really good for a lot of younger kids,” Sarwinski said. “You make a lot of mistakes during this time, then when the season starts you can learn from your mistakes.”

Galena’s starting backfield has taken shape with junior Nick Sivert at quarterback, along with senior running backs Trenton Little and Jacob Helton.

The youth situation is similar at Riverton, where head coach Derrick Rider is trying different players at different positions.

“It’s good with it being such a close location for us,” he said. “It gives us a chance to get some quality reps in. It’s good for guys to work on timing together. It’s good competition for a game-type setting.”

Three of the four Oklahoma schools — Commerce, Quapaw and Wyandotte — will have first-year starters at quarterback this fall.

“These things are great,” said Commerce head coach Steve Moss. “As long as they compete and work hard, we’re happy, and they’ve done so.”

Junior Blake Jameson, a backup quarterback the last two years, has the most experience of Commerce’s quarterbacks. “He has learned a ton from the beginning,” Moss said. “If I had to pick one kid this has helped the most, it would be our quarterback.”

Elsewhere in the backfield, Commerce has returned starters with D.C. Chance, a junior, at fullback, and senior Parker Morgan at tailback.

Quapaw’s Seth Morgan, a 6-2, 200-pound sophomore, is set to take over as the starting quarterback, said head coach Brad Homer. His top receiver figures to be Tyler Bacon, a 5-8, 160-pound senior who led Class 2A in receiving last year, Homer said.

“He did that in eight games because our quarterback got hurt and he had to play quarterback for two games,” Homer said.

Beau Kibel, a sophomore, has emerged as another target for his quarterback, Homer said. “We’re expecting big things if we stay healthy,” he said. “We’re just looking for some kids to step up.

“This is a tremendous thing coach Sarwinski has going here,” he said. “We’re still young but we’re a year older.”

Wyandotte is trying to build on a 9-3 season last year, when the Bulldogs reached the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.

“They’ve worked hard in the weight room and I expect another good season,” said head coach Scott Martin. “Seven on seven helps us work on our offense and build some team continuity, for sure.

“It was great for the community and great for morale,” he said. “Now, we expect to win. You have to continue to work harder and harder, and the kids have done that.”

Junior Ryan Garrett is the leading candidate at quarterback, with seniors Brady Barrett and Andrew Douthit at running back.

“It’s a real competitive district. That’s what I like about it,” Martin said. “Everybody thinks last year was a fluke. There was no fluke about it. Our kids worked hard.”

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