Cats hope to continue trend
Erisman not practicing as team plots defense of Frontier League Title
It's a fact, and at the same time a daunting challenge.
"Each year I've been head coach, we've had a better season than the year before," De Soto football coach Brad Scott said. "We've never taken a step back."
Maybe, but at this time a year ago there were a lot of things that had never happened under a Scott-coached team.
This year's squad will have to win league and make the playoffs simply to match last year's successful 7-3 team. And that may not be good enough, Scott said.
"Each senior class tries to build on the one before it," he said. "That's something we've really stressed to our seniors, that now we need to go to the next level and make some noise in the playoffs."
A challenge no doubt, but one Scott feels his team is plenty capable of achieving.
Returning nine starters -- four on offense and five on defense -- from last year's Frontier League champion and district runner-up team, De Soto still has talent in all the right places, and leadership where it counts, making the season's motto "Defend and Ascend" a real possibility in 2005.
Although coaches declined to comment on the status of first team all-league quarterback Neil Erisman, he has not practiced with the team.
As troubling as the idea of a season without Erisman may be, Scott was quick to point out that sophomore Jake Morse has earned the starting nod at quarterback and will be on the field for the season opener Sept. 2 against Osawatomie.
"A lot of quarterbacks are really good after the ball is snapped. Jake is really good before the ball is snapped," Scott said. "He's looking at the defense, making sure we're in the right formation, that we're going to run the right play. He's a pretty smart football player."
Smart as he may be, Morse will benefit from being surrounded by the team's most experienced players.
In front, anchoring the offensive line, is three-year starter Pat Burton. An all-league selection with Erisman, Burton has started every game of his high school career, and the experience shows.
He's had no problem stepping into the role of leader.
"When he speaks to the kids, they listen," Scott said. "He's been out there in the trenches, but he's really developed more of the verbal type of leadership since we graduated our last seniors."
Morse will be flanked by experience in the backfield as well. Tyler Farmer started in 2004 and will get a bulk of the carries in 2005.
Farmer is a punishing straight-ahead runner that Scott hopes can prove a consistent threat. Last season, Farmer helped carry the Wildcats through district play, racking up 184 yards in the 28-0 win over Perry, and 185 in a 43-3 handling of Bonner Springs.
"As a runner, you get two kinds of kids. You get the kids that run in a straight line, and you get the kind that try to make people miss," Scott said. "Tyler just runs. He might get tackled, but he'll have a ton of seven-, eight- and nine-yard gains. Tyler's more of a consistent, downhill, hard-nosed runner."
But there is a lot to prove. All-state graduates Alex Mercer and Leif Goleman leave big holes, and Erisman's absence deprives the team of a flexible athlete.
Despite a good offseason and a promising start to fall practice, Morse has never taken a pressure-packed snap in a big game.
"He did some mop-up duty last year and made a couple big plays against some scrubs, so we feel comfortable," Scott said. "But, you never really know for sure until he gets out there."
If De Soto's going to follow up on its motto and improve in 2005, Scott knows it's going to come one step at a time.
"We build a little bit every year," he said. "Since that expectation is there, this senior class is not going to take something like last year as a success. They are saying 'We want to be better than that.'"