Coach: Scott Vang, sixth season, 24-28
League: AV-CTL II
Last season: 11-2, lost in 5A championship
Returning starters: 9
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Offense: Pistol Spread
Schedule: Sept. 1, at Olathe Northwest; Spet. 8, Derby; Sept. 14, at Andover; Sept. 22, Eisenhower; Sept. 29, at Salina South; Oct. 6, at Arkansas City; Oct. 13, Valley Center; Oct. 20, Newton.
Projected record: 7-1
Top returning players
Three keys to the season
1. Sullivan amassed more than 3,000 total yards (1,629 passing, 1,404 rushing) last season with 45 touchdowns to lead Goddard to the Class 5A championship game. It will be tempting for Vang to lean more on Sullivan this season, but the coach said keeping him fresh for the playoff run in November is a priority. “You have to be careful running your quarterback because you don’t want to wear him out,” Vang said. “We have plenty of weapons and some really good kids, so I don’t think we’ll have to put it all on Blake.”
2. The staples of last season’s defense — defensive ends Ethan Wright and Cale Davidson — are gone, but Vang isn’t worried about a drop-off. Amaro at linebacker is ready to keep the defense “nasty” along with standout players like Mondragon on the line and McSwain and Caraway in the secondary. “My kids believe that whoever is the most physical team is going to win the game, so they’re going to come right at you and they’re going to hit you,” Vang said.
3. Goddard has a reliable line to protect Sullivan, a cast of weapons around him – including Beason and Russell, a transfer from North – and a defense that should once again be stingy. Vang is confident in what he has starting the season, but more of his top players are playing both offense and defense this season. Building depth will be critical for Goddard’s postseason success. “We have a lot of quality football players and guys we think are going to be good, but they have to figure it out now,” Vang said. “If they do that, then we’re going to be OK.”
Five questions with coach Scott Vang
1. How much has last season’s overtime loss in the state championship game motivated this group?
“There’s definitely a lot of motivation there for us. What I love about this group is that they’re such competitors. They don’t take losing very well. The seniors have been getting after it. I’m sure that game has stuck with them. They like to compete and they like to win. Everybody knows we’ve got a chance to get back ther again this year and that’s what we’re working hard toward.”
2. How is the offense looking right now?
“We’re going to be versatile. We have a transfer from North in Darius Russell and he’s going to be able to do some things for us in the backfield, and then we have last year’s back-up in Ben Bannister and those guys have had a good summer with us. Obviously, Blake (Sullivan) is one of the top quarterbacks in the state, especially as a dual-threat kid. Owen Beason out wide is going to be one to watch. A.J. (Vang) and Chod (Morrow) up front are both going to have big years for us on the line. We had a really good summer camp and some really good 7-on-7s. There’s still a lot we have to do and we’ll have to throw some new pieces out there, but it’s been a great summer for us and I love the direction we’re going in.”
3. Last year we saw a pretty balanced, if not run-first attack from Goddard. Can we expect the same or will you air it out more with Blake at quarterback?
“You’ve got to be careful about running your quarterback early in the year because you might wear him out. Blake’s a tough kid and he can handle it, but we don’t want to put a ton of wear and tear on him. We have plenty of weapons around him and great schemes, so I don’t think we’ll have to ride Blake all the time. He’s going to do more for us this season, though. We kind of kept him under wraps, then turned him loose. I have a lot of faith in Darius and Ben at tailback and we’re going to be able to run the football with our line. I think we have a lot of positives and I’m excited to see how the pieces fall together.”
4. How is the defense coming along?
“On the defensive side, the kids that are leading us are Justin (Amaro) and Cole (Caraway). Those guys a little more talkative and outspoken. Justin is such a competitor. He gets irritated in 7 on 7 because the defense gives something up. He just gets furious, it’s kind of amusing. It’s just 7 on 7, but that shows you how much that guy loves to compete and win. They’re the leaders for us. We have some new guys that will have to fill in on the defense, but they’re showing up and going to work every day. The offense may have to carry us early, but we’re going to be okay on that side of the ball. We will be physical once again.”
5. What has to happen for Goddard to make another title run?
“What’s going to have to happen for us is we’re going to have to find some guys that can provide some depth. We’re going to have to play more guys both ways this year. I think there are some young guys that can become starters for us, but those guys have to step up and prove themselves. If that depth is going to come, then we’re going to be okay. We’ve got a lot of quality football players, so if we can get some of these young guys to figure it out on the defensive side then we’ll be okay.”