Coach: Dave Fennewald, 26th season, 138-110
League: AV-CTL IV
Last season: 8-3, lost in 4A I second round
Returning starters: 6
Schedule: Sept. 1, El Dorado; Sept. 8, Rose Hill; Sept. 15, at Andale; Sept. 22, Collegiate; Sept. 29, at Maize South; Oct. 6, at Conway Springs; Oct. 13, Ulysses; Oct. 20, at Wellington; Oct. 27, at Winfield.
Projected record: 5-4
Top returning players
Three keys to the season
1. Will the Wildcats rebuild or reload? Expect to see plenty of new faces on a team that lost 25 seniors, including the entire offensive line. All-state quarterback Price (41 touchdowns as a junior) has the talent to succeed but can a new line give him the time he needs to lead the offense again?
2. Ellis will be a primary target for Price, along with Jacob Walker. A couple of legitimate receiving threats should force opposing defenses to respect the passing game, allowing Price the opportunity to repeat last year’s 1,300 rushing yards.
3. Scott Swaney will enjoy retirement this season after 25 years as Mulvane’s defensive coordinator. Steve Nelson will take his place with the task of leading a defense that lost seven starters, meaning Brett Nelson and junior defensive lineman Jeret Plummer will be expected to contribute immediately.
Five questions with coach Dave Fennewald
1. How tough is it going to be to replace that senior class that just graduated?
“That senior class was really special for us in a lot of different ways. It was fun being in the classroom with those guys and then on the field. We’re going to have to adjust and fill huge holes left behind on the offense and defense. Probably the biggest concern right now is the offensive line. We lost all five starters and all five of those kids were two-year starters and a couple were three-year starters. So finding offensive linemen is our No. 1 priority. The line is probably the heart and soul of every football team and that’s been our main task this summer. We need to find guys to fill their shoes and step up.”
2. How nice is it to have a foundation piece like Jayden Price back at quarterback?
“If you’re an offensive lineman or a receiver, knowing you have somebody like JP back there with that dynamic ability gets you excited. You can do a lot of different things with a player like and he’s going to make us look good because he’s such a gifted athlete that can make things happen when the plays break down.”
3. How is the rest of the offense looking?
“We’re going to be really inexperienced around JP. We have some good kids, but they’re going to have to adjust to making plays on Friday nights after playing JV last year. We’re probably going to end up starting a lot of sophomores and juniors. It’s going to be a young bunch, but we feel like they have some potential. We’re looking at Cole Diffenbaugh at running back and he’s going to make up a very, very fast backfield. And then at receiver, we really like what Drew Ellis and Jacob Walker are doing right now. They’ve both improved and understand our concepts.”
4. What about the defense?
“We lost three very good linebackers and that’s going to be crucial for us to replace. We’re looking at young kids that we’re hoping can step in and be athletic, but they’re young and they lack that game experience. Jeret Plummer was a very good player for us last year and then our only returning linebacker is Isaac Comer and he’s going to have to take a big leadership role for us this year. In the secondary, Brett Nelson is back at safety and he’s really good and can come up and provide run spport and then help us when teams try to go to the air. Dalton Miller is back at corner and he’s looking really good. We’ve been a platoon team in the past, but it’s looking like some kids are going to have to play both ways. It’s not something we’re excited about, but it’s something that we know we have to do. We’re probably going to have to have JP play in the secondary, which is a scary thought because he’s such a great quarterback. But he’s too good of an athlete not to use and he’s probably going to end up playing safety in college.”
5. What is the key for Mulvane this season to reach its goals?
“I told our kids that this year’s team is going to have to be the best team I’ve ever had. We’re not going to have very many seniors, so there’s a lot of juniors and sophomores out there on the field. They have to come together and be a team. We’re stressing to the kids that everybody has to be one Wildcat every Friday night. We’ve got to be a great team if we’re going to compete this year.”