The Jaguars will face a season of uncertainty after graduating a bunch of proven players. But the departure of one group leaves the slate clean for the next generation of Andover Central football players to make their mark.
Coach: Tom Audley (11th year at Andover Central 76-30, 25th year overall at 138-95)
2011 Recap: 6-4 overall, 4-1 in the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Division II, 2-1 in districts.
After dropping a pair to a tough Salina Central team and the eventual league champion McPherson, Central ripped off five straight wins, including the first two district games to earn a trip to the 5A playoffs. In the first round, the Jaguars ran into a good Emporia team that cut the playoff run short, despite a 226-yard rushing performance from Alex Bontz.
Returning Starters: Offensive 2, Defensive 2
Returning Lettermen: 18
2012 District: Arkansas City, Wichita West, at Kapaun Mt. Carmel
Alex Bontz is gone. And if you listen carefully, you can still hear the rest of the league celebrating. In his senior season, Bontz ran for 1,710 yards at nearly 7 yards per carry, and pounded the ball into the end zone 19 times. For his exploits on the football field, and on the wrestling mat where he won his second state title in a row, Bontz was a finalist for the Barry Sanders High School Male Athlete of the Year award at the Greater Wichita Sports Banquet.
But the end of one era means it’s time for a new one to begin. Bontz got the vast majority of the carries last season, with seniors Preston Solomon and Colton Koenings getting most of the carries Bontz didn’t get.
For all the seniors on last year’s team to carry the ball, Lucas Milner was there to get some limited varsity time as a sophomore. In his 18 carries last season, fourth on the team behind the three seniors, Milner picked up 52 yards and scored a touchdown. This year Milner will have a year of growth and some varsity experience under his belt coming into his junior season.
While a talented running back over the past couple of years has certainly led to some big numbers in the Central ground game, overlooked is the tradition of big, hard-nosed linemen who live for pounding opponents into submission.
Returning to keep up that tradition, the Jaguars have a couple of players who are anxious to take the lead on a unit that has somewhat quietly become the calling card of Central football. Senior Derek Honeywell returns as a guard and Jameson O’Conner is back to put the ball in play as the center. If the success of an offensive line is measured in team rushing numbers, the Jaguars’ 2135 yards last season say these two are good in the interior.
Central will have to have some players ready to earn their place among this proud group, but the offensive line is the only area that has some continuity from last season.
Replacing Koenigs at quarterback will not be an easy task. Junior Blake Meier saw some varsity action last year. Meier threw only 6 passes, but completed 4 of them for 53 yards. Kolton Holinde is a senior who can also compete for the job. Holinde is returning as the team’s punter and place kicker as well.
Just as on offense, 2012 will be a new dawn for the Central defense. The Jaguars’ top four tacklers from last year’s defense have graduated, including Preston Solomon and his 9.3 tackles per game.
But like on offense, the defense line is the unit with returning talent the team can lean on. Senior Corbin Niemtschk was the team’s fifth leading tackler last season with 55 as a defensive lineman last season. Jay Page is another senior returning to the defensive line and was right behind Niemtschk with 39 tackles last season. Combined, the two picked up 7 sacks last season with Niemtschk getting 4 and Page getting 3. Sterling Brown is a junior defensive end who had 16 tackles last season.
At linebacker, Central has a couple of players who got some action last season. Taylor Brown is a senior who had 16 tackles last year with half of a sack. Kier Stamp is a linebacker who had 15 tackles last season as a sophomore.
The Jaguars have a trio of seniors who can make plays in the secondary. Cameron Hurley had 21 tackles and a couple of interceptions last season. Quentin Miller contributed with 15 tackles and an interception with Zach Schulte pitching in for 9 tackles and a pick as well.
Odds and Ends:
Andover Central has made the playoffs in each of the past two years. The next step for the Jaguars is to win a playoff game. In 2010, Central ran into McPherson, the top seed in the West in the first round, and fell to the No. 4 seed, Emporia, last season.
The road back to the playoffs has its share of challenges. In Week 2, the Jaguars will face one of the top teams in 6A in Derby, and will get a top 5A team in Salina Central in Week 6. If Central wants to make a run in the playoffs, these two games will be a good measuring stick for where the team is at compared to the top tier. In the districts, the Jaguars will face Arkansas City, which had a breakout year last season, Wichita West which is poised for a change in culture with the return of Weston Schartz, and Kapaun Mt. Carmel, another of 5A’s top teams.