Perennial Class 3A football contender Conway Springs is a six-time state champion that has reached the playoffs seven consecutive years and 13 times in the past 14 years. The Cardinals won their six titles from 1998 to 2011 and lost to the eventual state champion four other times since 2000.
The Cardinals feature two huge building blocks from an 11-1 team that lost to Scott City in the state quarterfinals. First-team all-league Travis Wood (6-3, 190) will likely shift from running back to quarterback after rushing for 1,465 yards. Of course, in the Cardinals' single-wing formation that's simply a cosmetic change since Travis will handle the football more often, but rush it just as frequently.
His brother, Tanner Wood, established the state's single-game rushing record with 659 yards against Chaparral in 2012. Fullback J.J. Fisher is a bruising 6-3, 225-pounder and halfback Luke Fisher (5-11, 205) also returns. The run-oriented Cardinals are better using 10 blockers to free a ball carrier than any program in the state. Using Wood at quarterback means a couple extra wrinkles for the defense to work against.
"The rushing attack returns more than 2,000 yards and 33 touchdowns," said Conway Springs coach Matt Biehler, 56-6 in five seasons. “Our rushing attack is what we do. We’re trying to add a few more elements to our game.”
The offensive line in anchored by first-team all-league 6-foot-5, 295-pound guard Logan Creek, who is seeing recruiting attention. The Cardinals also return second-team all-league guard Michael Ramirez, center Sheldon Holland and tight end Drake Kreifels in the offensive line. The Cardinals' offensive line gets off the football, which is cleverly passed around in the backfield with plenty of misdirection.
Linebacker Luke Fisher was the Defensive Player of the Year in the rugged Central Plains League. Last year, Luke Fisher lined up next to second-team all-league Wood, who is projected to shore up the secondary at safety. Tackles Kreifels and second-team all-league Creek and defensive ends Ramirez and J.J. Fisher headline an experienced and dominating defensive line. Promising newcomers at linebacker are Josh Dugan, Ben Pauly and Luke Ebenkamp.
“It’s all about developing a cohesiveness to build on for those big games later in the season,” Biehler said. "When you’ve got a new group, they’ve got to be able to step in and fill those roles."
Conway Springs was unbeaten in Central Plains League play last year. The Cardinals will be well prepared for a Class 3A District with Cheney, Chaparral and Belle Plaine. Starting with week three, the Cardinals face rival Garden Plain, returning playoff qualifiers Douglass and Wichita Independent and Wichita Trinity.
Conway Springs features longtime assistants Gregg Hullinger (19 years), Fred Cottrell (18 years) and Brent Martens (11 years).