Salina South makes a compelling case as to why its aim is a deep run in the playoffs. Nine starters return on defense and more than half of its starting offensive lineup is back for 2012. This squad has a ton of experience, which will be tough to compete with.
Coach: Sam Sellers (12-15 in two seasons at Salina South)
2011 Recap: Finished 4-6, lost in the first round of the state playoffs to Bishop Carroll 24-7.
Returning Starters: 6 Offense, 9 Defense
Key Returning Players: Cody Busby (RB), Mike Shirk (FB/LB), Grant Fleming (DE), Justin Stonebraker (QB), Ethan Mitchell (TE), Zach Nachbar (WR/DB)
2012 District: Salina Central, @ Hays, @ Great Bend
The Salina South Cougars return six starters on offense and three of them are main blockers. Tyler Rhea, Cameron Weishaar and Zach Lowers all return for their senior seasons. Fullback Mike Shirk also returns for the offense.
“Mike (Shirk) is an old-school football player,” said Head Coach Sam Sellers. In other words, he’s not afraid to hit and hit hard.
The experience of the leaders on the offensive line coupled with the three years of starts Busby has under his belt, South is likely to pack quite the punch when running the ball. South’s pass game is likely to be improved from the 85.4 yards per game the team averaged in 2011. To help with that improvement will be Zach Nachbar, a two-year starter. He will be a receiver and cornerback.
South’s strength was the run game in 2011, as it averaged nearly 300 yards per game with 298.1, so if the Cougars’ run game is improved, it’s looking at a huge year on the ground. South’s run game could take it through the playoffs.
This is a squad that scored 30.1 points per game in 2011, so if it can keep that number up for 2012, South will have an outstanding chance to win most of its games.
Although this defense allowed the second-most points per game in AVCTL Div. 1 in 2011, it returns nine starters from that squad. That means nine guys now have one more year of experience and four of them were sophomores last season and the rest juniors, now seniors.
Three players return to anchor the defensive line in Grant Flemming and Turner Vogan at the end spots and Kole Smith will play tackle. Flemming is a three-year starter while Smith and Vogan are both two-year starters. This group will cut down the number of points scored to help South’s high-powered offense.
Salina South allowed the third-least number of rush yards in the league in 2011. It has a good shot at becoming the staunchest run-stopping unit in the league for 2012. Its pass defense, on the other hand, allowed the most total pass yards and the most pass yards per game in the league last season. However, it was one of the youngest teams in 5A state in 2011. Aaron Mar and Zach Nachbar will help shut down opponents’ air attack in 2012.
The line backing group is another unit that has a significant amount of experience, as Chase Turner and Andy Jewell have started at outside linebacker for the past three seasons. Mike Shirk will join them for his third season.
ODDS AND ENDS:
Busby wants to have a busy year. He has battled injuries for the past few seasons, but is back and healthier than ever. Busby has been a constant for the Cougars even through his injuries and looks to break school records in return yards, rushing yards, all-purpose yards, total offense and scoring. If he breaks all those records, he could go down as one of the best players South has ever seen.
South has started sophomores for the past few seasons, but now those sophomores are juniors and seniors with an unbelievable amount of experience. The wealth of knowledge this squad has could be the difference in a few wins and losses in 2012. South could beat several teams mentally this year and the mental game is where games on the field are decided.