Even during the moments when the Andover Central offense was successful, the way the Jaguars were moving the ball was uncomfortable to their coach.
Tom Audley doesn’t mind a pass here or there to keep the defense honest, but it just felt strange when Central transformed into a one-dimensional passing team at times.
“It wasn’t intentional, I can guarantee you that,” said Audley, who built Central’s sterling reputation as a running team. “If you’re going to be successful, you have to be able to run the ball.”
Last year Central didn’t know if it could run the ball three times in a row and gain a first down, which Audley believes was a reason why the Jaguars struggled by their standards.
So even though Blake Meier returns for his senior year at quarterback, having thrown for over 1,700 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, Central is committed to becoming more balanced.
“I love to throw the ball,” Meier said, “but you have to realize that a good run game opens up the pass and I’ll do whatever it takes to get the team a win.”
The renewed effort begins with the offensive line, where seniors Jameson O’Connor, Sterling Brown and Logan Kirkhart return. Helping them out will be Kier Stamp, another senior returner, who is a menacing blocker at fullback that will look to clear the way for incumbent running back Lucas Milner.
“We want to get back to being that smashmouth team,” Stamp said. “We want to be able to run the ball down your throat every time.”
Even though last season ended in the state playoffs, Central was disappointed it only producing four wins.
Twenty-two seniors are the foundation and who Audley has entrusted to restore the Jaguars, not only to a winning season but to a deep run in the playoffs.
“Central kids have a lot of pride in the program,” Audley said. “We have 22 seniors, which is, for us, a big number. There’s a lot of leaders on this team and I’m looking forward to seeing how they do this year.”
ANDOVER CENTRAL JAGUARS
Coach: Tom Audley, 12th season, 79-36
League: AV-CTL Division II
Last season: 4-6, lost in first round of 5A playoffs
Last five seasons: 30-21
Projected 2013 playoff team? Yes
Top skill players
|at Maize South||L,33-21|
|Sept. 6||at Valley Center|
|Sept. 20||at Goddard|
|Sept. 27||Maize South|
|Oct. 4||at Andover|
|Oct. 11||Salina Central|
|Oct. 18||at Arkansas City|
|Oct. 25||at West|
Blake Meier on his team
What Andover Central does well: “We’re going to play well as a family. You can always expect us to never give up and always battle through adversity.”
What has to improve: “The running game has to improve and I think it will because our offensive line is experienced and they love to block. They’re the only offensive line I know that genuinely loves to block. I’m very excited to have those guys in front of me this year.”