Going into his third season at Circle, coach Heath Henderson is confident that this can be the year that the Thunderbirds take a huge positive step.
He bases part of this on the versatility on the Circle roster, starting with senior lineman Austin King, a three-sport standout in track and wrestling in addition to football. Junior running back Hagen Henderson, the coach’s son, competes in three school sports plus powerlifting.
King was honorable mention all-league in football, is a three-time state qualifier in wrestling and was a state qualifier in the shot put. Hagen Henderson was honorable mention all-class in football, a two-time state qualifier in the discus, and a two-time all-league pick in wrestling.
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King said that participating in the other sports has a positive effect on his football play.
“Wrestling keeps me in shape, being able to control people, making a block and making sure you stay on a block,” he said.
Track provides sprint and weight workouts that keep him in shape, he said.
Hagen Henderson, who rushed 954 yards, said his time in wrestling keeps his weight down. Competing in track and field, he said, gives balance and quickness.
The four sports keep him pretty busy during the school year, he said.
“It gives you something to do, and it gives me a way to keep getting stronger,” he said.
Circle is still looking for its first victory under Heath Henderson, and the challenge won’t get any easier, as the Thunderbirds have moved into a loaded AV-CTL III.
For King, this has got to be the time.
“This is our main year,” he said. “I don’t want to leave not having won a game.”
Heath Henderson said the experience gained in those rocky seasons will be a benefit this year.
“The big thing that we’ve had to deal with is youth,” he said. “A couple of years ago, we started 26 freshmen and sophomores; last year, we started 12. This year, we might start two – sophomores, no freshmen.”
Circle’s linemen will be its biggest asset.
“Everything starts and finishes up front,” Henderson said. “The strength of our team is going to be up front this year. We have kids up there who are going to be capable and who have the physical ability right now.”
In addition to King (6-foot-1, 265 pounds) on the line, the Thunderbirds also return junior lineman Nate Kelly (6-0, 285) and sophomore Lucas Scott (6-3, 285).
“The play up front is going to help us tremendously for what we want to do, and that’s pound the ball,” Henderson said.
Which is where his son Hagen (5-10, 230) comes in. Hagen, also a linebacker on defense, said he prefers the offensive side of the ball.
“It’s where I’m more comfortable,” Hagen said.
The prospect of winning some games this year has him primed and ready.
“I’m really excited and looking forward to this year,” he said. “We have a heavy junior-senior team, and we’ve got a good shot to get that first win.”
Junior Lane Coulter (5-10, 150) will again be the starting quarterback.
“We have a real good attack coming back that we like,” Heath Henderson said. “The key for us will be getting defensive stops. We’re older, so we feel a lot better about what we have than we ever have before.”