The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 27, 2013

McDonald County hopes to build on late-season football success

The evidence of improvement was glaring.

After the McDonald County Mustangs opened the 2012 season with an 0-5 record, they finished 3-2 in their final five games. Even though McDonald County lost several key players to graduation, the Mustangs want to take that momentum into this fall.

“We’re really hoping so,” McDonald County coach Chris Gwartney said. “The big thing for us is that we lost 12 senior starters last year. We won three of our last five games and we were close to winning all five of them. That’s going to help.”

McDonald County concluded a weeklong camp on Friday, scrimmaging against the Lamar Tigers on Thursday in Anderson and Friday in Lamar.

“These kids work hard,” Gwartney said. “There aren’t a whole lot of them. We have only a couple starters in camp on offense and a couple on defense, because we got some kids on vacation.

“It’s been going good. We had three days of camp at McDonald County this week and with Lamar the last two days. So it’s been good.

“It was good to come down here and go against somebody else besides ourselves. The kids enjoyed it, and it was good for us.”

Among the key players lost to graduation are running back Jantsen Lynn and lineman Drey Fickle. Lynn rushed for 1,523 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior.

The Mustangs do return junior Jake Wood as their starting quarterback. He completed 40 of 117 passes for 698 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for 238 yards and eight touchdowns last year.

Returning starters are sprinkled through the lineup on offense and defense, but Gwartney said many spots are up for grabs.

“We don’t have a lot of starters back, so there are a lot of positions open and a lot of kids battling for it,” he said.

Scrimmaging Lamar was good for the Mustangs for a couple of reasons. McDonald County travels to face the Tigers for the season opener on Aug. 30. The Mustangs also use Lamar — the two-time defending Class 2 state champions — as a model.

“That’s what everybody wants,” Gwartney said. “Everybody wants to win that state championship and you want to pattern yourself after those kind of schools, those kind of programs like Lamar and Webb City. That’s what everyone wants to be, and that’s what we want to be, too.”

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