Coach Kyle Wallis guided Bluestem to a 3-7 mark in 2011, his first with the Lions. They won their last three games of the regular season to snap a 29-game losing streak and qualify for the playoffs for the first time in school history. After winning just one game in each of the next two seasons, the Lions hope they can return to better times.

Coach: Kyle Wallis (5-26 at Bluestem, third year)

2013 Recap: 1-9 overall, 1-6 in CPL.

Following a playoff berth in 2011, the past two seasons have seemed like plodding backward. For 2014, the Lions are experienced enough to start moving forward again.

Returning Starters: 8 Offense, 7 Defense

Returning Lettermen: 22

2014 District: Wichita Collegiate, Douglass, Wichita Independent.

2014 Schedule

2014 Outlook:

Twenty-two returning lettermen, buoyed by 15 returning starters, provide the experience and motivation for the Lions to begin swinging things to a positive direction.

Offense:

Coach Wallis believes establishing the run in the always-tough Central Plains League will be critical to the Lions’ success. To that end, experienced players both on the line and at the skill positions will be counted on heavily.

A trio of seniors and one junior are expected to lead the skill players and returners. This quartet includes seniors Cooper Minnick at quarterback and wide receivers John Stiger (second-team all-league in 2013) and Casey Garner, along with junior running back/wide receiver Lane Moran. Three more seniors – Judd Simon, Michael Hurd and Adam Johnston – will be the heart and soul of the O-line.

PHOTOS: BLUESTEM VS. REMINGTON

Defense:

Despite seven returning starters, Wallis feels the defense must grow into its potential. The Lions’ focus will be twofold: slow down the league’s power running attacks and increase the number of turnovers they force.

The strength of Bluestem’s defense will be at linebacker, where starters Cooper Minnick and Stephen Muckenthaler, both seniors, along with junior Lane Moran, return. The secondary should be solid with starting experience in seniors Casey Garner at safety and John Stiger at defensive back. Sophomores Dakota Cliff (defensive back) and Weston Scott (free safety) will need to play integral parts in the defense as well. Anchoring the line will be senior Michael Hurd, a second-team all-league performer last year.

Odds and Ends:

Despite two years of frustrations, Bluestem’s seniors have retained a lot of pride. They will be looking to reverse the school’s fortunes in their last go-round.

“These seniors were freshmen the only year that Bluestem has made the playoffs and want to go out on the same note,” Wallis said. “With a very tough district, led by Collegiate, they know we will have to continue to get better as the year goes on.”

Collegiate isn’t the only tough team on Bluestem’s schedule. The Lions open at Conway Springs, a state quarterfinalist last year. They wrap up the season by hosting Wichita Independent, who qualified for the playoffs in 2013, as did Douglass, another district foe.