A weekly question-and-answer session during the summer with an area high school coach.
Today: Collegiate football coach Bill Messamore.
Collegiate was undefeated and won the Class 3A state championship in 2009. Messamore approaches the new season with nine returning starters and a new league on the horizon: Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Div. IV.
Are the expectations raised for your team after last year's success?
"We do have high expectations at Collegiate, but we also are realistic that we graduated an incredible senior class. They only lost one football game in the last two years. We have some big shoes to fill. But we're used to filling shoes. Our kids had a good summer. We've done some seven on seven. We had a really good junior varsity team last year and we have some high expectations."
How many players do you have returning?
"We have 18 returning lettermen. We have four returning starters on offense and five returning starters on the defense, so we have a lot of holes to fill, but we have some pretty talented kids. We're going to be led by a very talented running back Brandon Taylor. The strength of our team is going to be our offensive front, which returns three very good football players: Trace Clark, Myles Copeland and Alec Simmelink. All of them were starters last year as sophomores. We were a lot more physical than teams thought we were going to be last year, which I think was evident in the way we played in the playoffs. I think we will be all right. I think that some people will think that this is the year to get Collegiate and we're going to have to get better, but we're going to line up and play."
Are those returning starters showing new players what it takes to win?
"I think that our kids understand that it takes a lot of work to win. They got it from the seniors from last year. And that kind of work ethic has been passed down from each of the senior classes and the traditions. Collegiate is a good football community. Our athletes are very close, and people that graduate remain close with others in the program. Our expectations are getting better all the time. We rarely talk about winning. We just talk about getting better, and that's what we're going to do this year. We're going to talk about getting better each day. If we do get better each day then wins will take care of itself. That's how we did it last year and the year before and so on.... Winning is a result of just each day getting better."
Your schedule includes teams like Andale and Rose Hill. How do you think your schedule stacks up this season?
"We've moved to probably the premier league in the entire state of Kansas. We're excited to be a part of that league, and it's a new chapter for us. I think it's going to be exciting to have new rivalries.... Week in and week out is going to be very tough for us, and I think it's going to prepare us for the playoffs. We're excited about it. We will get ready each week. We really don't know what to expect, but we like challenges and it will be a great challenge."
How much does it really help your team to have a tough schedule?
I hope it helps us a lot in the postseason to have that kind of schedule in the regular season. The only thing that concerns us is that we're a lot smaller than those other schools. Our numbers on our entire football team will be no more than 45 (players), whereas Andale will have 100 people out. As long as we can remain healthy through those wars, I think we're going to be OK.
Is having a smaller squad something you'll have to get used to?
As far as the regular season, when we've played 3A teams in the past, they've had similar troubles as far a numbers. In the playoffs we've played teams like Conway Springs and Garden Plain. Those teams have big squads also. That part's not unfamiliar to us. We've dealt with that before. We practice a little bit different than other people do. We don't hit as much. We don't bang as much in practice as other people do so we don't get injuries that way. It doesn't mean that we're soft. I don't think anybody would call us soft. We just have to do things a different way.