The Kapaun Mount Carmel football team has been relatively successful since Dan Adelhardt took over in 2005. It's had five consecutive playoff appearances and four seasons with six or more wins.
But a City League title and deep playoff runs have been elusive.
Adelhardt says he finally has the pieces to field a squad with a legitimate chance of achieving those goals. Quarterback Keaton Lewis has the same feeling and knows a lot of what they do tonight at Northwest in the season opener will determine the direction of the team.
Game time is 7 p.m. Nearly all of Kansas' high school football teams begin play Friday night.
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"We're confident that if we can get off to a 1-0 start then we can catch fire and possibly go 9-0 this year," Lewis said. "Not to look past anybody. We're not going to look past anybody, but if we can get that 1-0 start we're going to be a lot more confident going into Games 2 and 3."
Confidence is something that the Crusaders have an abundance of to start the season. Lewis is convinced that he will have a bigger and stronger offensive front. He's noticed that the new varsity players have the "It" factor.
"I didn't expect them to come in this confident," Lewis said." I knew they were talented, but I didn't expect them to come in and act like they were leaders and be this confident... "
They also have size, which gives Adelhardt options to go along with seniors Matthew Thomas and Spencer Rotolo-Utz on the offensive line. Kapaun has usually been undersized and undermanned in the trenches.
"There's been years that we've converted tight ends and gone from week-to-week," Adelhardt said. "We've got kids now pushing each other. We're still up in the air about a couple of spots, and that's not a bad thing. It's not like, 'We've got five linemen. Guess who is starting?' We've got eight or nine like most teams carry and they are pushing each other."
Adelhardt knows his teams have been pushed to the limit against some opponents due to size and depth. It has led to fourth-quarter breakdowns and mental errors.
"When you're 185 pounds and it gets to be the fourth quarter and the other team's fresh and they're platooning, it weighs on you," Adelhardt said. "Especially when you're playing against guys that are 260 and 270. It weighs on you literally and figuratively."
With a little more time for Lewis late in games, Adelhardt his counting on his premier athlete, Michael Reynolds, to have even more of an impact in games as a receiver and a tight end. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, Reynolds has an ideal frame for a speed rusher at defensive end. The 2009 All-Metro selection used his acceleration and speed to get seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss last year.
"Not only is Michael explosive on defense, but he's explosive on offense for us," Adelhardt said. "He needs to get into playing shape to where he says, 'I'm not coming off of the field.' He's a defensive matchup problem and an offensive matchup problem."