Coach: Brandon Clark, 12th season, 93-34
League: AV-CTL I
Last season: 13-0, won 6A championship
Returning starters: 6
Schedule: Sept. 1, at Eisenhower; Sept. 8, at Goddard; Sept. 15, Maize; Sept. 22, Hutchinson; Sept. 29, Carroll; Oct. 6, at Salina Central; Oct. 13, Salina South; Oct. 20; at Campus.
Projected record: 8-0
Top returning players
Three keys to the season
1. Derby has won the last two Class 6A championships and three of the last four. To make it a three-peat, Derby will have to do it with a mostly new cast with only six returning starters from last season’s 13-0 team. McGill, a standout linebacker, is the only starter back from the defense.
2. The good news is that the offense can revolve around Kooser, a running back who accounted for more than 1,800 total yards and 33 touchdowns. Kooser has bulked up in the offseason and Brandon Clark feels confident he will be an even stronger workhorse this season.
3. Besides finding newcomers to step up at the varsity level on defense, the most urgent question facing Derby is who will replace Dan Dawdy at quarterback. Right now junior Hunter Igo appears to be the frontrunner for the job, but Clark said there will still be an open competition in August practices to determine the starter.
Five questions with coach Brandon Clark
1. Coming off a second straight 6A title and losing 15 starters from that team, what was the focus this summer?
“What we’ve been telling our kids is that the past is the past. Just because you wear the green that’s not going to get you anywhere. It’s what we do on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday of game week and what we’re doing right now in the preseason. We’re concentrated on that right now and trying out outwork everybody else.”
2. There are some nice weapons on the offense coming back like Kooser and Littleton. What do guys like that allow this team to do?
“Honestly, it’s all 11 pieces. We can’t run the ball if we can’t block and we can’t throw the ball if we can’t protect our quarterback. So we’re focused on making sure we’ve got all 11 guys doing their job or else those guys aren’t going to be able to produce like they have. All 11 guys have to take ownership and they’re doing a good job of that right now. But we’ve got to keep working because if we showed up and played right now, we’re not anywhere close to where we want to be...that’s for sure.”
3. What is the latest on the quarterback situation?
“Right now we’ve got three quarterbacks that we really like. Hunter Igo is a junior, Grant Adler is a sophomore, and Davin Simms is a freshman. Honestly, Sims is a little behind on the knowledge part of the offense, but physically he’s ready to play. So right now we’ve got Adler and Igo fighting for that spot. We’ve got to be able to learn the offense and make the right reads. We’re slowly progressing, but not where we want to be right now. Both of them are battling and they’re trying their hardest, but it’s just kind of a work-in-progress right now.”
4. With only one starter back on defense, what’s that side of the ball looking like?
“We’ve got 10 spots that we need to fill and we’ve had some guys step up, but right now there’s probably seven spots that are up for grabs. We have kids working hard, but it’s going to come down to who can make the right read and who plays fast and who plays physical and aggressive. We’ve got some competitions going on right now and there’s a lot of inexperienced with some of our young guys. But I’m 100 percent sure those guys are going to improve because they’ve been working their tails off and I’m proud of how hard they’re working.”
5. If you guys are going to make another run at a title, what has to happen for this team?
“For me, it all starts on us getting better on the practice field. Right now we’re nowhere close to where we want to be. We’ve got to take this one day at a time and not worry about the Friday night lights. If you start worrying about the game on Friday, then you’re not going to get anywhere. We’ve got to worry about today and getting better. As long as these guys continue to improve, offensively and defensively we’ll be alright. But right now we’re not even close to where we want to be by Week 8 or Week 9.”