The Dragons had a breakout season last year and are looking to continue to take steps forward with the program after coming up 2 points short of the playoffs in a rivalry game with Douglass.
Coach: Brian Seba (4th year at Belle Plaine, 18-22 record in six years as a head coach.)
2011 Recap: 5-4 overall, 4-3 in the CPL, 1-2 in District.
Going into 2011, it had been a long time since Belle Plaine had a winning season. The Dragons can’t say the same thing going into 2012. After dropping the first game to eventual state champion Conway Springs, Belle Plaine won four in a row; more wins than Belle Plaine had won in the last three seasons combined. The Dragons added a win over Wichita Independent in the last district game, but a 14-12 loss to Douglass in Week 8 kept them out of the playoffs. Although Belle Plaine came up just shy of the playoffs, it was the first winning season since 2007.
Returning Starters: Offensive 6, Defensive 6
Returning Lettermen: 21
2012 District: Chaparral, Conway Springs, Douglass
The bad news for Belle Plaine is it’s losing quite a few of its skill players from last season. The good news is the Dragons are returning all but one of their offensive lineman, leaving intact the unsung unit that made it possible for Belle Plaine to average 25 points per game last year. Seniors Ryan Willms, Austin Johnson, and Sebastian Brown, along with junior Tone Heath provide Belle Plaine with an experienced base that has to make Seba crack a smile.
The Dragons are losing some key players from last year. But the skill players coming in, although limited with experience, have the talent to capitalize on the same offensive line from last season.
Belle Plaine has a trio of players pushing each other for the starting quarterback job. Tough competition should prove to be a benefit for the Dragon offense. Senior Caleb Throop returns to the mix after missing last season. Throop brings age and experience to the competition and all the instinct that comes with it. Junior Chase Curl is a bruising runner who will have opposing trainers struggling to keep up with readily available ice packs. Belle Plaine’s flexbone offense will be a nice fit for Curl to keep the ball and dare defenders to enter into a collision. If Seba doesn’t go with Curl at quarterback, he will get a ton of carries as a running back. Don’t count out sophomore Tyler Lowers from the competition. Last season, Lowers was a running back who converted to quarterback after injuries left the Dragons in need at the position. Lower showed his athleticism and will prove to be an exciting player in the years to come if not immediately this season.
At receiver, the Dragons have a senior returner in Quay Hervey and up-and-comers in senior Bryson Gann and junior Harry Busick, providing a solid unit out wide.
Much like Belle Plaine’s offensive line, its defensive line is returning a huge chunk of its starting core from last year. The Dragons will have three returning seniors on the line with Sebastian Brown, Ryan Willms, and Austin Johnson, setting them up to have strength at the line of scrimmage. Belle Plaine’s ability on the line is not limited with its three returners either. Juniors Thai Goebel and Levi Turney provide depth that the Dragons are happy to have up front.
Like its offense, Belle Plaine is losing key players defensively as well. Three linebackers from last season are gone and the Dragons will have to get players to fill in and take over those rolls to capitalize on the strength they have on the defensive line. Quay Hervey is returning and can play both linebacker and defensive back. Senior Denton McAdam will provide another capable linebacker, but the door is wide open for someone else to step up and make an impact on this unit.
The secondary is also going to provide opportunities for players to have a chance to make a difference on this team. Hervey is capable of plaining in the secondary, and Justin Pickens gives the Dragons a solid junior who is ready for the varsity lights. But the chance is there for players to contribute to this team as a defensive back.
Odds and Ends:
2011 was a good year for Belle Plaine. The Dragon’s five wins marks the first winning season for the Chocolate and Gold since 2007. Five wins is a dramatic step up for the program, but it leaves room for even more improvement.
One of the few disappointing aspects of last season was that after missing the playoffs by 1 point in 2010, the Dragons came up 2 points short against fierce rival Douglass last year, narrowly missing the playoffs again. The districts have been jumbled up, but the Bulldogs remain tied to Belle Plaine, leaving the opportunity for the Dragons to get revenge, and possibly keep Douglass out of the playoffs this time around.
Regardless what happens with the post season for Belle Plaine, if the Dragons can put together another five or more wins, it will be the first time the football team has connected consecutive winning seasons in over two decades. Two winning seasons in a row would continue to grow excitement around the program and help Belle Plaine to be a callus, not a blister.