After a rugged season for Harrisonville, the Wildcats are ready to return back to their winning ways.
One of the winningest programs in the Kansas City region sustained its first losing campaign in seemingly eons in 2018 at 4-8. Over the prior 15 seasons, H-Ville averaged 10.5 wins per year, including five state titles.
While the Wildcats took their lumps as a young team last year, they’ll return a solid cast ready to flip the script in 2019.
“Our kids were fairly resilient and got on a run at the end of the year, which got the excitement for the guys coming back,” said Harrisonville head coach Brent Maxwell of HHS’ run to the district title game. “We’re excited about the summer we had, and are a very tight-knit group. We’re excited about the progress we’ve made, but we’ve got a long ways to go for those first four games.”
Like last year, the first four are rugged at Kearney, vs Maryville, vs Kansas Class 6A’s Blue Valley Northwest, and at Battle.
“With how hard our schedule is, it’ll be hard to tell how good we can be,” Maxwell stated. “That’s a tough first four weeks. We want to get some wins, but we want to get out of there healthy too. Then it doesn’t get easier when we get in conference.”
But it won’t be easy on foes either, as the Wildcats return quite a few, including quarterback River Riley (6-foot-1, 155). The junior threw for 827 yards and nine scores in part-time duty.
“He’s grown, put on some weight and muscle and has got a pretty good arm,” Maxwell said. “His biggest attribute is he’s very smart and a student of the game. He has a sense, even when we install new things, and figures it out quickly and why we’re doing it.”
Harrisonville will also return sophomore Jace Reynolds (5-foot-8, 170) at running back, who darted for 692 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. Junior Dreydon Polk, senior Carson Crowley (5-foot-8, 160) and sophomore Joshua Pesek (5-foot-10, 170) also will share totes.
“Jace has a bright future ahead of him, and put on pounds to allow him to carry the ball more,” Maxwell said. “Dreydon’s a different runner than Jace, and gives us that depth.”
At receiver, senior Colby Knowles (6-foot-3, 180) returns after an impressive junior campaign with 867 yards and seven scores. Junior Kenney Atkinson (6-foot-1, 185) also returns after snaring 18 balls for 320 yards and four scores.
“Colby has matured, got a lot stronger and is going to be a good one,” Maxwell said. “Kennedy was more of a possession guy last year, but can stretch field a bit this year and draw attention.”
Up front, the Wildcats return a senior-laden cast with left tackle Brodie Rogers (6-foot-3, 235), left guard Keigan Rowe, center Jacob Poisal and right guard Carson Graef. The senior quartet are joined by right guard Trevor Campbell. Juniors Brian Garlock and Ethan Murray also provide depth.
“This is one of the better offensive lines we’ve had in a few year, and the guys are gelling,” Maxwell said. “It’s definitely comforting to have them all back. One thing lines struggle on is communication, but these guys have been around each other long enough that they figured out the key in addition to being physical is to also communicate to each other. They have a chance to be pretty special.”
Defensively, Graef, Campbell, Rowe and Rogers will line up in the trenches, as well as Murray.
At outside linebacker, junior Colin Caruthers (5-foot-10, 160), senior Kyron Beavers (5-foot-10, 150) and Atkinson will register tackles, while Poisal, junior Hagen Stevenson and sophomore Carson Miller also will notch wrap ups.
The secondary will feature Knowles at one corner, with senior Braydon Tarwater (6-foot-1, 18) at the other cornerback. Crowley will man one safety, while Caruthers, Reynolds and Polk also will see time at defensive back.