It might be easy to overlook a small runner in the backfield.

At only 5-foot-7 and weighing nearly 170 pounds, Gavin Schumacher fits that role.

But this year, the Thomas More Prep-Marian senior has expectations to be one of the premier backs in northwest Kansas — if not the state.

He’s one of several seniors on this year’s Monarch football team who is hoping to buck the trend of losing seasons dating back the last several years.

“Baseball this summer helped a lot,” said Schumacher, who played key roles in the Hays Monarchs Legion team that won state and helped guide TMP’s baseball team to Class 3A state in the spring. “It was exciting and makes us want to push for a good year in football this year.”

Schumacher knows this is the last year he has to make an impact on the program. So he’s leading the way through preseason drills, being the first in line and helping younger backs get to where they need to be.

That’s stood out to second-year coach Jason Cauley, who knows Schumacher has the skills to be a top player in the area this fall.

“Gavin is pound-for-pound probably the strongest guy on the team,” Cauley said. “He’s 5-7, 172 pounds, and he throws up as much weight — well, not maybe as much as Alex Patel — but he’s right there working out with him. He’s not taking the weight off when he’s working out with him. And he’s fast, he’s strong, and he can catch out of the backfield. He’s an all-around player.”

Patel and the offensive line’s play can only help Schumacher stand out this fall.

“The line needs to do a lot better at holding position and push the ball farther each time,” Patel said.

Schumacher provides a weapon out of the backfield, either running the ball or catching it in the flat.

“Just get yards and keep the feet running,” he said about the key to the season.

He and the Monarchs will face solid defenses this year in the likes of Smith Center, Norton, Phillipsburg and Plainville.

But he also knows TMP hasn’t been looked at as a quality opponent the last several years due to the losing records.

“They always look over TMP in football,” he said. “It’s just what happens.”

Schumacher hopes to help get the team rolling early against tough opponents before the final three district games against Phillipsburg, Norton and Russell.

“Pretty much all that matters are those district games at the end of the year,” Schumacher said. “But those games at the beginning of the season are just practices basically to get ready for the main event.”