High expectations have to come from somewhere.
For Conway Springs, they come from a very low place — last season’s 63-6, season-ending loss to Collegiate in a Class 3A first-round playoff game.
“That’s just not how you want to go out,” Conway Springs senior tight end/linebacker Josh Dugan said. “And honestly, we’ve thrived off the memory of that game. We knew we didn’t play well, whatsoever, and we’ve dedicated ourselves to making sure something like that doesn’t happen again.”
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The motivation from that loss – and the return of seven starters on both sides of the ball – has Conway Springs primed for a breakout year after going 6-4 last season with plenty of first-year starters and plenty of injuries to deal with. It was the worst season in eight-year coach Matt Biehler’s tenure.
“We were very inexperienced last year,” Biehler said. “Even with having some seniors, we were hit with injuries and when that happened, it didn’t bode well with no depth.”
Conway Springs returns starting quarterback Colton Terhune, a 5-foot-11, 165-pound junior who Biehler calls a “weight-room warrior” for his dedication. Terhune threw for 912 yards and rushed for 670 yards last season.
Up front, three starters return on the offensive line in Matthew Lange, Justin Lange and Skyler Kunz. Kunz was an All-Central Plains League pick last year, as was Matthew Lange, who was also honorable mention All-Class 3A both on offensive and defensive line.
“We need to get big output from our offensive line,” Biehler said. “When you have an offensive line that can do the things we want them to do, which is block for both run and pass, then it benefits you up and down the board. It really benefits the entire team to have all those guys coming back.”
What Conway Springs also has back is a proven star in the 6-4, 215-pound Dugan, who led the team with 101 tackles and 15 tackles for loss last season. Dugan also had 25 catches for 487 yards and seven touchdowns. Dugan, an All-CPL pick on offense and defense, sets the tone for the Cardinals.
“Josh is a tremendous young man, and he expects big things out of his senior year,” Biehler said. “He’s a great leader, a man of character. He moved positions in his career and to do that, then turn into the type of player he is speaks to what kind of young man he is.”
Dugan started his career at quarterback before moving to tight end — in the past a position where he might see one or two passes the entire year. But Biehler has opened up the offense and Conway Springs threw for 1,300 yards last season.
On defense, Dugan has sideline-to-sideline range and can also drop into pass coverage — he had one interception last season that he returned 80 yards for a touchdown and five pass breakups.
“I don’t really prefer being on one side of the ball or other,” Dugan said. “I just love the game, love being on the field and playing football. I’m going to go hard wherever you put me at, and I know if I do good people are going to notice and if I make bad plays or make mistakes, I try to learn from it.”