Circle saved its best for last a year ago, coming out of its football district as the second seed behind eventual Class 4A champion Rose Hill.
But the two district victories were the Thunderbirds’ only triumphs of the season, and second-year coach Bob Pool said he will be looking for improvement this season.
He will do so with a solid veteran line of four seniors and one sophomore, led by center Drew Daharsh (6-foot-2, 250 pounds), guard Bruin Hayden (5-10, 200) and tackle Chris White (5-11, 190), all seniors.
“All of them will be better than last year,” Pool said.
The upperclassmen will try to protect Circle’s skill position players, which Pool said are young but talented.
“They know they’re going to be good in the future, but we need them good now,” he said.
Although Pool said the Thunderbirds are not especially deep, he feels he has some quality.
The returning offensive players are led by juniors Paul Richard and Jake Smith, but Circle’s fortunes will rest on the arm of sophomore quarterback Garrett Hutson, who guided the team in its last four games in 2011.
“He won the two that mattered most,” Pool said, referring to victories over rivals El Dorado and Augusta that propelled the Thunderbirds into the playoffs. “He performed pretty good for a freshman.”
Keying the rushing attack will be sophomores Justin Wright and Trey Davis, as well as senior fullback Drake Fox. Pool said Wright is a power back and Davis is fast with good vision.
Another offensive key will be senior tight end Stewart Dennison (6-6, 220), a converted quarterback.
At first, Dennison was reluctant to go to tight end, Pool said.
“Once we forced him into it, he took to it and was pretty good at it,” Pool said.
Pool said that Circle’s quality will make up for its lack of manpower.
“We don’t have a lot of numbers,” he said. “We’ve got about 45-50 in now, which is right for us. We’ll be competitive with the kids we have. We’ve got some talent – they’re just not 16 yet.”