Even at Conway Springs, where the single-wing offense and hard-nosed defense have been staples of long-running success, change is unavoidable.
Elevating first-time starters into primary roles is a concern Cardinals coach Matt Biehler shares with every other coach as the 2014 season approaches.
“When you lose kids to graduation and you’ve got a new group, they’ve got to be able to step in and fill those roles,” Biehler said. “You just never know how it’ll work until that first game.”
With seven returning offensive starters and six on defense, Conway Springs is hardly in total makeover mode. Many key players are back from a team that finished 11-1 last fall and reached the Class 3A quarterfinals.
The Cardinals return Luke Fisher, a senior linebacker and running back, who was the Central Plains League’s defensive player of the year. Their offensive and defensive lines will be anchored by returning starter Logan Creek, a 6-foot-5, 295-pound senior whose size is attracting interest from several college programs.
A change that doesn’t figure to cause Biehler any sleepless nights involves another senior standout, Travis Wood.
Wood, who rushed for 1,465 yards last season, will likely move from running back to quarterback to replace graduate Dakota Finstad. In the run-happy single wing, it’s like switching a ball-peen hammer for a claw hammer.
“Our rushing attack is a big part of what we do,” Biehler said. “We’re trying to add a few more elements to our game and do a few more things.”
Wood will also switch from linebacker to safety this season. The Cardinals graduated their entire secondary, creating a need for an experienced presence.
“We’ve got a lot of good senior leadership,” Wood said. “I feel like the new guys will fit right in with us and feel comfortable.”
Expectations remain high for the Cardinals, who have reached the playoffs for seven consecutive years and 15 of the last 17. Biehler expects the overall quality of the CPL to offer a good proving ground for his players who are assuming greater roles.
“It’s all about developing a cohesiveness to build on for those big games later in the season,” Biehler said.
A LOOK AT CONWAY SPRINGS
Coach: Matt Biehler, sixth season, 56-6
League: Central Plains League
Last season: 11-1, lost in quarterfinals of 3A playoffs
Last five seasons: 56-6
Projected 2014 playoff team? Yes
TOP SKILL PLAYERS
|Sept. 12||at Medicine Lodge|
|Sept. 19||at Garden Plain|
|Oct. 3||at Independent|
|Oct. 10||Trinity Academy|
|Oct. 24||at Belle Plaine|
|Oct. 30||at Chaparral|
Travis Wood on his team
What Conway Springs does well: “I think we’re going to have a really good power running team. We’ve got some big guys up front. We’ve got a strong defense coming back, too, and we can hold teams to very few yards.”
What has to improve: “Our secondary was all seniors. We’ve got some new players who will need to come around. We need to reload.”