HOXIE — After a 6-3 campaign last season that ended shorter than it would have hoped, the Hoxie High School football team expected to have an improved club in 2017.

The Indians returned virtually all of their starters, and we’re excited for big things this fall.

Then things got even bigger when Chris Cox, a 5-foot-10, 230-pound bulldozer, transferred to the school from Oakley.

And what already was expected to be a solid front for the Hoxie line got even better — and defense is where the Indians are hanging their hats.

“We love defense,” said senior defensive back Latham Schwarz, he said, pointing out many scores from the eastern half of the state end up in the high 50s or even 60s. “We like nothing, nothing.”

And virtually nothing is what the Indians have given up in their 4-0 start. Up until last week’s 22-6 win against Eight-Man Division I, District 8 foe Atwood-Rawlins County, the Indians had yet to give up a touchdown.

And all three of their previous games had ended at halftime or the third quarter via the mercy rule.

The improved defense is especially true in front, where a rotation of junior Jarrod Dible, junior Colton Heskett, Cox and junior Taye Washington has allowed little in the way of an opposing run game.

“Not taking anything away from our pass defense, but our run defense is really good,” Dible said.

Even when Rawlins County quarterback Maverick Green put up 163 rushing yards in Hoxie’s win last week, it didn’t seem the Indians gave up anything big. The addition of Cox has fueled that, and the Indians are able to rotate in Washington, who stands 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds. Both are accomplished wrestlers in the Class 3-2-1A ranks, each finishing as a state runner-up last year.

“It helps when we’ve got probably the biggest line in the state,” said Schwarz, who runs behind the same line on offense, where he leads the team with 457 rushing yards and 11 scores. “They’re not just big, they’re athletic too.”

The line spent a great deal of time chasing the athletic Green a week ago, but still managed several tackles for loss. Through four games, Hoxie has 23 TFLs and 12 sacks. Cox leads the way with 19 tackles (eight for loss and seven sacks). Heskett has six TFLs, Dible three and Washington one.

“All our D-linemen have improved,” said Hoxie coach Lance Baar, whose club is off to its first 4-0 start since 2007. “We’re able to rotate guys around. That’s pretty big.”

Now, Hoxie’s focus turns to St. Francis, the Eight-Man Division I state runner-up a year ago. St. Francis blasted Hoxie last season, 50-0, en route to the district championship.

The win against Rawlins County gave Hoxie a leg up for the second spot in the district, but for the Indians, that’s not good enough. Hoxie set out to avenge its three losses from a season ago. With a 52-0 win against Sharon Springs-Wallace County and the win against Rawlins County, two of those have been checked off.

“These guys are going to be ready,” Baar said. “Since the beginning of the year, we wanted to avenge those three losses. We’re ready. Ready to roll.”