After back-to-back Central Kansas League championships, the Dragons strive to get through the district games for a ticket to play football in November.
Coach: Marc Svaty (6th-year head coach, 6th year at Halstead, 24-23 in five years)
2011 Recap: 6-3 overall, 4-0 in CKL North (League Champion), 1-2 in District.
The Dragons beat all but one Central Kansas League opponent, and ran the table in the North Division, but hit a wall in one of the toughest districts in the state. After losing to Sedgwick in the district opener, Halstead rebounded to beat Hutchinson Trinity to keep the season alive. But the season came to an end after battling perennial power Garden Plain to within 6 points.
Returning Starters: Offensive 4, Defensive 5
Returning Lettermen: 15
2012 District: Hillsboro, Marion, Moundridge
The Halstead offense goes with senior quarterback Jonah McKee. Last season, McKee took the helm and passed for 866 yards with 14 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions. Play back to defend the pass, and McKee will beat you on the ground, rushing for 712 yards with 17 touchdowns last year. Senior fullback Cory Armendariz returns after rushing for 1,030 yards last season. Alex Thibault gives the Dragons a senior running back with quickness. Paving the way up front, Halstead has senior leadership with offensive lineman Michael Mendez and a junior in Jerry Black.
With established talent in the backfield and on the offensive line, the Dragons will need receivers to step up and provide McKee with some targets in the passing game. Blake Bohling will have the opportunity to be a receiving threat in his senior season. McKee will also have a pair of juniors to throw to in Topper Kaufman and Dalton Haight. Freshman Elijah McKee may pick up some varsity experience at receiver as well.
Mendez and Black give Halstead experience on the line of scrimmage, but there are spots up front to fill. The Dragons will have some options to bolster the offensive line. A pair of juniors, Steve Black and Kody Keiser, provide head coach Marc Svaty with age on the line, while sophomores David Loucks and Dakota Eash have the size. Brayden Reece is another sophomore who can pick up some varsity time on the line.
Halstead has experienced running backs that stand to be the main threat on the ground. But junior Keifer O’Neal will give the Dragons depth. Freshman Blake Beckett may have the opportunity to get some carries as well.
Halstead’s defense starts up front where the Dragons are loaded with experience. Senior defensive lineman Timothy Glassco returns to the defensive front, where he recorded 46 tackles last season. Fellow senior Michael Mendez returns to the line of scrimmage as well, along with junior Jerry Black, giving Halstead a seasoned front. Add senior Jessie Aguirre and sophomore Brayden Reece and the Dragons will have a tough defensive line to crack.
At linebacker, Joseph Myers is a sophomore, but a sophomore with experience, having picked up 43 tackles last year. Senior Brendon Gundy returns at linebacker as well, providing the Dragons with experience across an age gap. Senior Dakota Hoffman comes in to provide size at the linebacker position, and freshman Blake Beckett can step up to give Halstead another linebacker as well.
The secondary will be led by senior Alex Thibault. Last season, the defensive back piled up 55 tackles and stands to have a big year in his final season as a Dragon. Senior Blake Bohling will make an impact in the secondary as well. Juniors Devan Herb and Keifer O’Neal will provide depth and freshman Elijah McKee can get some experience too.
Odds and Ends:
Perhaps no team is happier than Halstead with the new districts. Over the last few years, the Dragons have battled in one of, if not the toughest district in the state. Garden Plain, Hutchinson Trinity, Sedgwick and Halstead were all deserving of a playoff spot, but playing in the same district, only two were able to go each year. The Dragons found themselves in the bottom half. The new district has its peril with league foe Hillsboro, and Heart of America teams in Marion and Moundridge, but the breakup of the old group has to be alright with Halstead.
Championships cannot be won, or lost, in the first game of the season. But a Week 1 showdown with Harvey County rival Hesston gives Halstead a unique opportunity to start the year. The Dragons have had a tough time with the Swathers in recent years, and a win at home against a bitter rival in the opener could be a springboard for Halstead, setting the tone for the rest of the season.