Posted: Jul 16, 2014 10:00 AM
|8 / 22||Republic||Away||Loss||7 - 22|
|8 / 29||Marshall||Home||Win||28 - 14|
|9 / 5||Warrensburg||Home||Win||19 - 18|
|9 / 12||Pleasant Hill||Away||Win||28 - 10|
|9 / 19||Nevada||Home|
|9 / 26||O'Hara||Away|
|10 / 3||Clinton||Away|
|10 / 10||St. Pius X||Away|
|10 / 17||Center||Home|
|10 / 24||Districts|
Changes abound in Sedalia for the Smith-Cotton Tigers football team. And not the usual changes, the comings and goings of groups of players or certain styles of football, but massive changes. Smith-Cotton enters 2014 with a new head coach, Ryan Boyer, and the prospect of soon playing in a brand new stadium. Boyer puts it mildly, "There is a lot of excitement for our upcoming season. We have the opportunity to do some special things. Add to it that the school district is in the process of building a new stadium that we should be in by the end of the year."
2013 was a middling year for the Tigers. Boyer says, "We had a hard-fought season. We competed in every game we played?[but] a few injuries set us back." Excitement doesn't too often follow 4-7 seasons, but it's there in Sedalia, and for good reasons.
Though Smith-Cotton returns only four players to the offensive side of the ball, it's just the type of group a coach would want to have. Says Boyer, "We have great depth at the skill positions and good experience on the offensive line." Happily for Boyer, the experience at the skill positions starts with his quarterback spot. Junior Caleb Reed (5-8, 165) is the type of QB who is often looking to, and can, make something happen on the ground, but he has a good arm as well. He threw for 608 yards in 2013, not huge numbers, but also not bad for a team that focuses heavily on the running game. He'll have some weapons to toss the ball to, starting with senior WRs Marquz Ray (5-10, 175) and Lane McFail (5-9, 165), each of whom can get downfield in a hurry. Junior Carlton Homan (5-10, 180) will take over the duties at running back. Homan is comfortable rushing the ball between the tackles, and can put a bruising on defenses. He had 187 yards on the ground last season. Junior Dalton Zaremba (5-11, 175) will be crucial to Smith-Cotton's offensive success, as he can line up either in the backfield or at wideout, and his size makes him a prime candidate to thrive at both.
But look to the O-line to set the tone for the Tigers up front. Junior center Austin Jaekel (5-11, 210) is the key cog in the middle, and his familiarity with Reed can let Boyer rest a little easier. Jaekel will be flanked by the immense Jack Marsh (6-2, 295) at right guard, a position where Marsh earned first-team All-Conference honors last season. And beside him will again be senior right tackle Ryan Lefevers (6-2, 265). Lefevers was named most outstanding lineman at Mizzou's camp this summer has been invited to play in the Blue/Grey All American game in Tampa, Florida in January. The size of these two together will pave the way for a formidable ground attack, as well as offer Reed some time in the pocket. The other open spots in the line remain up for grabs.
Success for Smith-Cotton, however, will start with being able to stop opposing offenses, and they've got four core players who should lay a solid foundation in doing so. Coach Boyer calls his defense a "very physical and aggressive group. There is good size on the line and quickness in the secondary, and great experience at the linebacker position."
That experience starts with senior Rex Walters. Once again manning the role of inside linebacker, Walters is the heart of the Smith-Cotton defense. He tallied 89 tackles in 2013, and his play was enough to see him awarded a spot on the secondteam All-Conference list.
Junior Jayce Simoncic (5-11, 170) is back in the secondary, along with Lane McFail. The hard-hitting Simoncic had a nice sophomore season, gathering 12 tackles and 1 INT, while the speedy Lane McFail accounted for 24 tackles and 2 INTs. Junior Jake McFail (5-8, 160) will get the starting strong safety spot this season, after tallying 10 tackles in sporadic playing time last year. Junior Logan Parham (5-8, 140), who had 6 tackles in 2013, will take over at free safety.
Even though it only brings back one starter, the defensive line looks to be a force for the Tigers in 2014. Junior Barry Rivera (5-11, 185) will again set up shop at defensive end. Rivera had a nice sophomore campaign, compiling 22 tackles. Stacking the middle of the line will be senior DTs Chris Caballero (5-10, 190) and Brian Laster (5-11, 280). Caballero had 7 tackles last season, and Rivera will look to be a force with some added muscle.
Boyer has a solid group of players for his first year at the helm of Smith-Cotton. And even if his squad might not be made up of world beaters, it's his system that should make the difference. "You do not have to be the biggest, fastest, or strongest in order to be successful in our system," he says. "However, you do have to be able to execute your full potential every play." If his players learn quickly how to execute, the excitement at Smith-Cotton will go beyond a new stadium.
Pigskin's Pick: 5-4