By NICK McQUEEN
ELLIS -- Arguably the Railroaders' best overall player a season ago, it was fairly easy to see Ellis High School's Sean Lee was the motor that made the Railers go.
Not much will change for the 6-foot, 185-pound Lee, now in his senior season.
One thing that will change, though, is his position on the field. Predominantly used as a running quarterback in the Railers' 3-6 campaign as a junior, Lee will make the move to fullback this year, but likely will be used all over the field.
"Have to do what is expected of me, no matter what it is," said Lee, who last season threw for 359 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for 444 yards and four scores. "Going to give 100 percent effort on every play."
That's the type of attitude and leadership Ellis eighth-year head coach Butch Hayes is wanting to see out of one of only three seniors on a young, small roster for his team. The Railers will start sophomores and possibly freshmen at many positions.
"He'll get the ball quite a bit," Hayes said of Lee. "He'll run some receiver, too, maybe back in at quarterback with some wildcat formation.
"He's going to be all over the place for us," the coach added. "I know he's up to the challenge and we expect big things from him."
Lee is one of five returning starters on an Ellis club that expected a big drop in numbers this season, but the senior said he was surprised by the number that ended up in practice on Day 1
"There's still only (24) of us, but I was really only expecting about 16 or 17," Lee said. "We're young, but all the guys want to be out there."
The only other seniors are running back/defensive back Jared Pfiefer and lineman Brandon Groff, the only representative for Ellis on last season's all-Mid-Continent League team.
"We're going to be relying on a lot of freshmen and sophomores who will come in and get some playing time for us," Hayes said. "But we have some good senior leadership, and a good group of juniors, so we should be alright."
Lee, while making the transition a few feet back in the backfield, will turn the QB reins over to sophomore Easton Smith, who did see some time under center as a freshman. He completed 6 of 17 passes for 80 yards.
"He's only a buck 40, but I feel like he's smart enough, and he knows enough about the game to make some good plays for us," Lee said of Smith.
Smith also was a pitcher and first baseman for Ellis' Class 2-1A state-qualifying baseball team last spring. Freshman Joseph Eck will serve as the backup.
"I think we're pretty solid at quarterback," Hayes said.
The youth will continue on the line with only Groff and junior Dylan Haas as returning starters.
"They're working hard and had a great offseason," Hayes said of his line. "Could be a surprise to some people."
The youth of the Railers' team puts that much more emphasis on the few upperclassmen, Hayes said. The Railers faced a similar situation last season.
"Each one of (the seniors) does an outstanding job working with the younger guys," Hayes said. "They're patient, but know when to jump on them, know when to push them a little bit, and know when to pat them on the back. "We're going to need that out of them this year."
Especially if Ellis hopes to attain its goal of getting back to Class 2-1A playoffs, something that has been elusive the past two seasons, and a feat that only got more difficult with 2-1A favorites La Crosse and Oakley on the district slate, along with MCL foe Plainville.
"We're doing a lot better than we were last year at this point.," Lee said last week. "I feel like (Norton, Week 1) will be good competition for us."