Successful senior class set for final high school football game
De Soto hasn't known a class like this one and that makes them that much harder to let go of, coach Brad Scott said.
Seven seniors will play their last games for the green-and-white Thursday and it's impossible not to notice what this class has accomplished.
The group has achieved more than any recent senior class and has compiled the most wins of any class in Scott's six-year tenure.
"They've worked so hard for us and done everything we've asked them to," Scott said. "They've been here since the end of the lean years."
And maybe that's what makes this class special, Scott said.
The group hasn't played together since its seventh-grade year like classes do these days. The school's football program was in such a state when they were seventh-graders in 2000 their team was disbanded.
But the group rebounded and played a major part in De Soto's rise from the ashes of the split with Mill Valley. The players were instrumental in last year's once-impossible league title campaign and the run to the state playoffs.
"Since I started, it's very improved," senior Austin Bills said of the program.
He tried to go out for football as a seventh-grader and has played every year the school has allowed him, witnessing first-hand the Wildcats' turnaround.
"There's six or seven of us that have played all five or six years together," he said. "Those years have been fun playing with those guys, and spending some time with coach Scott, that's been the best time."
And now, as Bills, Neil Erisman, Pat Burton, Taylor Burnett, Devin Tenney, Luke Krehbiel and Kenny Price get ready for their last football game, they still have goals to achieve.
Friday's loss to Tonganoxie officially eliminated the Wildcats from moving on in district play, but the Cats (4-4) still want to wrap up a winning schedule.
It would be the team's third-consecutive winning season, a feat not accomplished in nearly 30 years.
"You might say we're not playing for anything, but we're playing for a winning record," Scott said. "There's still some things that we're still playing for."
A winning record, and pride, Bills said.
"It's the last football game, but I've had fun playing it, so it's going to be good going out and playing with my old friends," he said. "I just want to finish it out with a win, finish off a good season. I want to finish it with some pride."
The road hasn't been easy recently as De Soto has dropped four of its last five games. Things won't get much easier Thursday in the finale either.
The Cats to travel to Bonner Springs. Both teams have struggled in district play, Bonner losing 49-22 last week to Perry-Lecompton. That doesn't mean sewing up a winning record will be easy, Scott warned.
"It's going to be a tough match up again," he said. "They're a huge football team. They're very athletic and they have one of the best running backs in the area."
A win would be nice, ensuring a 5-4 record, Scott said. More importantly, it would just be right given the class playing its final game.
"We feel like they've really put a great career together and we want to really celebrate that on Thursday," he said. "We're around these kids 365 days a year basically for 5 and a half years of their lives. We've become a big part of their lives and they've become a big part of ours. We want to make sure that we're going the best by them, but at the same time we're really going to miss them when they're gone.