Coach: Marc Marinelli, fifth season, 14-25
League: AV-CTL II
Last season: 3-6
Returning starters: 15
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Schedule: Sept. 1, Derby; Sept. 8, at Maize; Sept. 15, Newton; Sept. 22, at Goddard; Sept. 29, Hutchinson; Oct. 6, Valley Center; Oct. 13, at Andover; Oct. 20, at Arkansas City.
Projected record: 4-4
Top returning players
Three keys to the season
1. Eisenhower has nine returning starters on offense, including four offensive lineman. They can provide a safety net for new quarterback, sophomore Collin Mackey.
2. The Tigers dropped off after a semifinal appearance in 2015 but have restocked with weapons that include Roy, a standout special-teams player, and slot receivers Colton McKinnon and Justice Moore.
3. Defensively, Eisenhower is replacing some of its top players. King, a linebacker, along with returning starters Roy and Evan Ellingson, can help ease their losses.
Five questions with coach Marc Marinelli
1. How impressive was it last year for a freshman (Parker Wenzel) rush for more than 1,000 yards?
“We knew the kid was going to be really good for us, but at the same time he’s still just 14 years old and he weighed like 145 pounds last year. Now he’s been in the weight room and he’s up to 180 and he’s put in the time and the hard work and he’s given us the ability to move him around and get him in different spots and do some things with him. He’s still a relative unknown it seems like. I feel like the guys in our league know about him, but not a lot of people talk about him. When I was Hesston, (future KU player) Ryan Schadler didn’t even start for me as a freshman. But Parker was ready to go from Day 1. He’s going to be a special one. He already is.”
2. How is the offense looking right now?
“It’s obviously going to start up front for us. We’re going to be very, very big. I think we average around 6-3 and 280 across the board with a couple of those kids at 6-5 and 6-6. Those guys have worked extremely hard to get a little bit quicker and our new offensive line coach has got those guys playing at a very high level. We feel like we’ve got a back in Parker Wenzel who is going to be pretty special. And then you have guys like Justis Moore and Colton MacKinnon back there and we feel pretty good.”
3. Any idea on who the starting quarterback will be yet?
“Right now it’s a wide-open competition. We’ve been evaluating them all summer and all offseason and they’ll both have 80 live snaps in our scrimmage. We’re going to split it up 40-40 and we’ll see who grades out a little better. But we have two guys we feel good about in junio Ty Trudo, who played on Friday nights last season and played some slot for us last year, and then a sophomore Colin Mackey and he’s a really good quarterback too. But we’ve got to figure out which one is going to be ou guy and then figure out where the other is going to play because he’ll have a place on the field too.”
4. What stands out about the defense?
“Honestly, I think our depth. I think our depth in the secondary and on the defensive line is very solid. We feel like we’ve got a steady group of guys who can get the job done and we can alomst just rotate them in and out. Obviously Tanner (King) is an unbelievable linebacker for us and he’s a great pass-catcher on the other side of the ball, as well. And then we’ve got two young guys in the mdidle who have really improved a lot in junior Seth Golden and sophomore Carson Wheeler. We have Kaden Roy back for us to lead the secondary at safety and all he does is make plays for us. He’s probably one of the best defensive backs I’ve ever had. And we feel like we have six or seven guys we can play back there.”
5. What’s the one thing that has to fall into place for this team to reach its potential?
“We’ve got to finish games. There were three or four games last year where we were up at halftime and we didn’t finish them. You’re talking about a huge swing in your record and your playoff draw. That’s been our whole motto this offseason is to finish games. Since we’re in 5A, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing you’re going to have to bring it. If you take anybody for granted, you’re going to get beat. Our focus has been week-in and week-out has been talking to the kids finishing. All of our summer and offseason workouts have been pretty tough in that aspect of finishing football games.”