Thirty minutes into June's football camp at Pittsburg State, Andover coach Mike Lee was irked. His players struggled against groups from Class 6A and 5A schools.
"We were getting whipped," Lee said. "I told them, 'This is who you're playing this fall. Your level of play has to go up.' "
Things got better, but it was a necessary glimpse at the Trojans' future as a Class 5A football team.
Andover, along with Andover Central, moves up to 5A this season and into Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division II. They go from playing an all-4A schedule to facing primarily 5A and 6A schools.
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"No disrespect to anybody we played in the past, but you look at our schedule, we'll see good teams every week," said Lee, whose team was 9-2 in 2009.
The AV-CTL reshuffled its divisions, necessary because of the growth in the Andover school district and the addition of new schools. Maize South, which opened in 2009, will play a full league schedule in Division IV. Wichita Collegiate, placed in the AV-CTL by the Kansas State High School Activities Association, also moves into Division IV.
Goddard Eisenhower will open in 2011 and be in Division II, along with Goddard, which dropped from Division I. The Goddard school district will field one football team in 2011.
With the addition of the Andover schools, Division II becomes one of the area's toughest leagues. McPherson is the favorite to win Division II and is a 5A title contender, while Andover and Andover Central (4-6 in '09) were both 4A playoff teams in 2009.
"Division I in the AV-CTL has been very strong, and Division II hasn't been as strong but we've been smaller schools for the most part," McPherson coach Tom Young said."... I don't know if we'll rival Division I, but I think we will be much stronger."
Division II has been the weakest AV-CTL division. Last season Valley Center was winless, Campus (now in Division I) had one win and Arkansas City and Winfield, now in Division III, were 4-5.
Valley Center should be improved after hiring coach Pat Haxton, who won a Class 3A title at SE-Saline in 2005.
Andover and Andover Central played strong teams in the past, including Rose Hill, Buhler and Andale.
This season will be different as they play mostly bigger schools.
Andover Central will play two teams it saw in 2009 — El Dorado and Andover. Andover's only repeat opponent is Andover Central.
"When you get to play somebody year after year, they know your tricks and you know their tricks, that occasional scheme that they like to run that gives people trouble," Audley said.
But there's a flip side to that.
"You're not familiar with these teams yet," Lee said. "These kids don't know those schools."
That's why Lee believed it was important to have his team face 5A and 6A competition at the Pittsburg State camp.
While the Trojans were frustrated early, they learned.
"Here we were little Andover, not making much noise and doing our jobs," Windholz said. "We learned from the other teams and the way they played. We did our jobs, but we got better at doing them."
Audley sat down with his team after the 2009 season and told them to get ready. The Jaguars' schedule is no joke.
Andover and Andover Central are two of Class 5A's smallest schools. Andover Central opens with Goddard (6A), plays at Salina Central (a perennial 5A power) and then plays host to McPherson.
Andover will open the season at McPherson.
"Basically, it will come down to whether we have the manpower to play with them," Audley said of the Jaguars' tougher schedule. "I would imagine we'd see a little more speed. The physicality of the division is good, especially in the top end with McPherson."
Because of the move up in class and division, Audley plans to change the way he substitutes. Instead of playing a large number of athletes on both offense and defense, he wants to platoon as much as possible.
It's one way he sees his team being able to play with larger schools.
"The average player working at the same position every day of the week has an advantage over a kid that has to learn what he needs to do on offense and defense," Audley said. "Then, in the course of the game, you're going hard against good people, and it's almost impossible to play hard the whole game and give all-out effort. The more kids you have involved, the more enthusiasm you have."