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Stafford County Football Preview

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By Brad Hallier

 

Ad Astra Radio will preview area high school football teams, based on county, before the season opener Sept. 1. Here is the preview for Stafford County.

Macksville Mustangs

Coach: Morgan Grippin

Classification: Eight-player Division 1

District: 7

2022: 9-1

Postseason: Beat South Gray 54-6; lost to Atwood 46-0

Best postseason finish: State champions, 2007

Top returning players: Ervey Triana, sr.; Hector Gomez, jr.; Jason Cleveland, sr.; James Granger, jr.; Orion Guevara, so.; Aiden Katz, sr.

Key game: Sept. 22 at WaKeeney. These were the top teams in the district last season and this was one of the Mustangs’ toughest games. The winner here will have a leg up in the district race.

Outlook: Macksville will start a new era with a new coach, but that doesn’t mean expectations are down. Macksville still returns nine collective starters. Players like Triana, Cleveland and Katz are well-experienced, and Granger is the size of a tank. This team should still be able to win plenty of games, and play at least once at home in the postseason.

St. John Tigers

Coach: Justin Nusser, fourth season (3-22)

Classification: EIght-player Division 2

District: 7

2022: 1-8

Postseason: Did not qualify

Best postseason finish: Quarterfinals 1983

Top returning players: Eli Foote, sr., Joe Drake, sr.; Tegan Tanner, sr.; Randy Calvillo, sr.; Abelardo Llanas, sr.; Alan Valenzuela, sr.; Daniel Portillo, so.; Aden Adame, jr.

Key game: Sept. 29 at Stafford. While the Trojans lost quite a bit from last season, St. John returns quite a bit. In a five-team district, one with some balance, finding wins won’t be easy for anyone. This is a great chance for St. John to show the progress it has made.

Outlook: St. John has had a rough go in football, not having a winning season since the 2012 team went 8-2. Since then, the best the Tigers have done is 3-6 in 2016, but the Tigers have shown some promise under Nusser. They won two games in 2020 and another last year, while competing in several games, twice losing by one possession. With so much back, the Tigers should have expectations not just to challenge for a playoff spot, but maybe have a winning record.

Stafford Trojans

Coach: Mitch Engelken, second season (8-1)

Classification: Eight-player Division 2

District: 7

2022: 8-1

Postseason: Lost to Bucklin 32-30

Best postseason finish: Round of 16 1975, 1989, 1990, 2013, 2014, 2018

Top returning players: Jimi Oleson, sr., WR/DB; Axel Ortiz, sr., OL/DL; Alexis Garcia, sr., OL/DL; Brody Kerschensek, sr., OL/DL; Cody Knoche, jr., RB/LB; Dylan Brozek, FB/LB

Key game: Oct. 13 at South Barber. Stafford won a thriller last year, en route to a district championship. South Barber will be looking forward to this one, and if Stafford wants to stay on top, it has to prove itself in this one.

Outlook: Stafford was one of the great stories in Kansas high school football last season. A year after not making the playoffs, the Trojans won a district championship and started the season 8-0 while boasting an exciting offense. The Trojans lost a talented senior class, but there is still much coming back. Size, speed, athleticism and a bit of experience. The first few games will be key for the Trojans to look to sustain what they built last year. Building a team is one thing. Building a program is what Stafford looks to do now.

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