Andover Central’s streak of 11 consecutive years with a playoff berth ended as the Jaguars finished 3-6 for their second straight losing season.
For the Jaguars to revert to their winning ways, which included winning seasons in 10 of the school’s first 11 years, coach Tom Audley is putting the pressure to improve directly on himself.
“We’re going back to some of the basics,” he said. “Go a little old school. Get a little tougher. I don’t think we’ve played as hard as we’ve needed to.
“It has to start with me. I have to have the right attitude and be demanding in a way the kids will respond. They’re tired of not winning, too. We still have some pride in the Jaguar football program.”
Senior defensive end Kevin Olney agreed.
“I wasn’t happy with how the season turned out last year,” Olney said. “We had a very tough schedule, we played some really good teams, but I would say I’m sick of losing. This year we’re going to turn that around.
“You should be expecting a new Andover Central team this year. It will turn out different this season.”
Andover Central, which dropped down into Class 4A-Division I, remains in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division II. Its first six games are against Class 5A and 6A teams.
It’s not going to be easy to improve initially, especially because the only returning starters are Olney and senior wide receiver Tyler Harris.
“We’ll have to call on their pride,” Audley said. “Our kids have to own up to our program. I think we’ve under-performed the last couple years, and we have to get a chip on our shoulder.”
The offense will change with the graduation of Blake Meier, who had more than 3,500 passing yards in two years as a starter. Audley is considering Peyton Huslig and Cole Taylor to replace Meier.
“Both of them are athletic enough and smart,” Audley said. “The Taylor kid throws the ball a little bit better, and Huslig is a little thicker and runs a little better. Both of them can do the other deal.… I can very well see both of those kids playing at different times.”
The new offensive line will be tasked with creating some time for speedsters such as Jordan Birch, Olney, Harris and Huslig, who all ran a 4.6-second, or better, 40-yard dash.
Olney will lead a defense that Audley expects to rely on speed because they don’t have much size.
“We’ve got a lot of kids at 180, 190 pounds that can play,” Audley said. “In high school football it’s, ‘Do you want to be big or fast?’ I’d take fast every time.
“This team kind of reminds me of when (Andover Central) first opened up (in 2002). We weren’t very big, but we were a speed team.”
In the first seven years of Andover Central’s existence, the Jaguars won at least eight games six times.
A LOOK AT ANDOVER CENTRAL
Coach: Tom Audley, 13th season, 82-41
League: AV-CTL Division II
Last season: 3-6
Last five seasons: 24-25
Projected 2014 playoff team? Yes
TOP SKILL PLAYERS
|Sept. 5||at Valley Center|
|Sept. 19||at Goddard|
|Sept. 26||Maize South|
|Oct. 3||at Eisenhower|
|Oct. 17||at Hayden|
|Oct. 31||at El Dorado|
Kevin Olney on his team
What Andover Central does well: “I’d say our biggest strength is that we’re going to play together as a family, and all 11 guys will have each other’s back and be out there for each other.”
What has to improve: “I think this year to improve, we’ll have to play four quarters and be scrappy through the whole four quarters, and play our hearts out.”