Circle’s mix of young and veteran players could be used to its advantage not only this year but in years to come. If veteran players become leaders and help the younger players fit into the roles they’ve been assigned, Circle has the potential to be a solid team this year and years to come.
Coach: Bob Pool (2-8 entering 2nd year at Circle, 21-21 overall)
2011 Recap: Finished 2-8, won two of its last three games to make the playoffs, where it lost to Topeka Hayden 57-0.
Returning Starters: 6 Offense, 4 Defense
Returning Lettermen: 15
Key Returning Players: Stewart Dennison (TE/OLB), Drew Daharsh (C), Jordan Moore (G/NG), Bruin Hayden (G), Chris White (T), Drake Fox (FB/LB), Jake Smith (S)
2012 District: Hesston, El Dorado, Maize South
The first building block and most underrated position on any football team is the offensive line. Without it, a quarterback has no time to pass. Without it, a running back has nowhere to run. Without it, the offense can’t move. Almost every player from last season’s offensive line returns for the 2012 season. A solid offensive line can be the difference between a playoff win and a defeated season.
Circle’s offense last season was anemic to say the least. It gained the second-least amount of yards in AVCTL Div. IV with 1,053. It gained just 2.8 yards per carry and gained 45.4 yards per game rushing. However, with almost the entire offensive line coming back and Drake Fox at fullback, Circle’s rushing numbers have nowhere to go but up. Especially with Jordan Moore, Drew Daharsh and Chris White anchoring the offensive line, the Circle run game has almost no option but to be better in 2012.
Trey Davis and Justin Wright will get numerous carries at running back in 2012 and hopefully improve on yards gained and points scored. Garrett Hutson will man the quarterback position and looks to gain more yards through the air for the Thunderbirds. Circle finished 2011 with 599 passing yards, with 6.5 yards per attempt.
Circle will have a young secondary, but a veteran defensive line. Much of the offensive line will play both sides of the ball, which could prove to be detrimental to the squad. It doesn’t matter how much experience an offensive or defensive line has, if it gets tired quickly, it doesn’t do much good. However, this is a defensive line that does have experience. It has been tired before and it will be tired again, but what matters is how well it performs when it gets tired. This line will need to step up in those situations.
Something to keep in mind is that Circle is a 4A team where many, many players play both sides of the ball, as well as its opponents. Circle is not alone in the need for players to play both sides.
The Thunderbird defense was one of the most porous in its division in 2011, something that will without question need to be fixed in 2012. Teams averaged 5.3 yards per carry in 2011, almost exactly twice what the Circle run game produced on offense. On average, teams gained 171.5 rushing yards in a game. That is good for more than three times the number of yards gained by the Circle offense.
ODDS AND ENDS:
Circle gets the season started against Augusta, a team on a 10-game losing streak dating back to the 2010 season. This won’t be Circle’s only shot at a win, though. If it could take down some mid-level AVCTL teams in 2012, it could be a major step in the right direction. After Augusta, the Thunderbirds have Winfield, a team that is consistently in the middle of the pack of the AVCTL.
Circle could be staring at a winning season and a playoff berth if it executes what it sets out to do. However, Circle has been notorious in recent years for its inability to finish and win games.
Hesston, Maize South and rival El Dorado are in Circle’s district, so it could be tough for the Thunderbirds to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. It’s obviously far from impossible, but it will not be easy for this team.