Varsity Kansas

Andover Central trying to recover from rough start

Since Andover Central started its football program in 2002, coach Tom Audley's teams have advanced to the playoffs each season. In that span, the Jaguars are 58-16 with two one-loss seasons and two two-loss seasons.

Such success has made this season's 3-5 record difficult.

"It's been somewhat of a struggle and a learning experience, a humbling experience," Audley said. "I probably was about due to be humbled."

Yet the Jaguars still have a chance at extending their playoff streak when they play Wichita Trinity (5-3) at 7 tonight at Cessna Stadium. The winner will advance to the Class 4A playoffs with Rose Hill out of District 12.

"It's been different," senior lineman Andre Bruner said. "Seeing how the tradition has been top 1-2 in (league), top 1-2 in district and usually pretty good in playoffs."

Senior wide receiver Grant Trembly added: "Last year, losing was not something that we did. This year it's kind of been the other way around."

Andover Central was 9-2 in 2008 and lost to Topeka Hayden, the eventual 4A champ, in overtime in a second-round matchup.

The Jaguars didn't have much experience coming into the season — Audley has played a handful of sophomores — and the schedule didn't help as they started 0-3.

The Jaguars opened with Blue Valley Northwest (7-1), currently ranked third in Class 6A; they lost at Wellington (5-3), which has extended its state record playoff streak to 18 seasons; and lost at Andover (7-1).

"Those are all three pretty good teams and they're all headed to the playoffs," Audley said. "You start to question yourself, though. Not only the coaches are questioning themselves, but the players. It gets a little frustrating."

On Sept. 25, Andover Central lost to Buhler (7-1, ranked second in 4A). The Jaguars' three wins are over El Dorado (0-8), Augusta (1-7) and Mulvane (4-4).

Andover Central's biggest problem has been its inability to finish drives.

"When we have gotten in the red zone, we couldn't find a way to score," said Trembly, whose team has been outscored 215-154. "We counted multiple times where we were inside the 10 and we ended up turning it over on downs or turnovers. We'd get a good drive going and we'd fumble or throw an interception, and it killed everyone."

There has been progress. In the past three weeks, Andover Central scored 89 points.

The defense has most impressed Audley with its improved play and consistency.

"To be honest with you, our goals every year aren't necessarily to win the league," Audley said. "We have so much talent every year and you want to get as much of that talent out as possible. You want to be a heck of a lot better at the end of the year than at the beginning.

"We've made strides at that."

And that could help the Jaguars get into the playoffs.