With all-stater Joseph Krause at quarterback last year, Seward broke the single-season Class B record for passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Now that Krause has graduated and is playing at Northwest Missouri State, there’s no way to duplicate that Bluejay aerial show.
But the current Seward football team is determined to match or surpass the success the Bluejays had in 2018, when they went 8-3 and reached the quarterfinals of the playoffs. Just doing it in a different way.
“It’s going to be fun, old-school, smash-mouth football,” said Tyler Lenz, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior, one of four offensive linemen with starting experience. “Our expectation is a (state) championship. That’s been the goal since sixth grade.”
Lenz, who has scholarship offers from Northwest Missouri State, Minnesota-Moorhead, Morningside and Midland, leads a physical front on both sides of the ball that also includes three other seniors — Jordan Kavulak (6-3, 250), Colton Hill (5-9, 210) and Trevor Reeves (6-1, 240). Kavulak missed last season with a knee injury after seeing extensive playing time as a sophomore.
It appears senior Ben Myers is the front-runner to replace Krause behind center after catching passes the past two seasons as a wide receiver. Myers hauled in 32 catches for 415 yards and two touchdowns in 2018. Sophomore Gavin Sukup (6-0, 170) is also a quarterback candidate.
Myers was a quarterback through middle school and his freshman year before switching to receiver.
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“Joe was more of a deep-ball threat (at quarterback),” Myers said. “I’ll throw more short balls and run more than Joe did, probably a lot of options (option plays).”
The running back on the other end will usually be senior Gabe Knisley (5-9, 180), whom Seward coach Jamie Opfer calls a “freak athlete.” Knisley rushed for 546 yards and four TDs and caught 19 passes for 326 yards and four more scores.
“I’m going to run people over if I can’t get around them,” Knisley said. “I don’t want them to expect anything that I’m going to do when I’ve got the ball.”
While offensive style is a point of conversation, Seward’s strength this fall is defensively, where nine players with starting experience are back.
Knisley was a safety/linebacker last season with 66 tackles, while another senior linebacker, Tyson Franklin (5-11, 190), registered 65 stops, including nine for losses. Senior Zack Ellingson (5-11, 200) had 45 tackles as a third returning starter at linebacker. Hill will also be part of the linebacker rotation.
Lenz and Wyatt Warner (5-11, 190) anchor the defensive line. Seniors Josh Sagehorn (6-2, 185) and Parker Stroup (5-8, 140) had 53 and 37 tackles, respectively, from their spots in the secondary last season. Myers will also see time in the defensive backfield.
“We expect to be really good defensively,” said Opfer, whose team opens the season at Waverly on Aug. 30. “We have guys with experience and speed who like to hit.”