When Jay Harris was named head football coach at Thomas More Prep-Marian High School last spring, there was no need for introductions.
“I have coached every one of these boys in some sport,” said Harris, who guided the TMP junior high team the last two seasons. “The guys that are seniors right now, I was on the high school staff when they were freshmen. The juniors, I’ve coached them either in basketball or track throughout the years too. So I know them already. I have expectations for them.”
Harris took the reins of program when David Bowen left TMP after one season for the head coaching job at Baldwin.
Harris said the familiarity with the players had made for a smooth transition. He’s looking to provide stability for the Monarchs after coaching changes following each of the last two seasons.
“That’s the most important thing,” said Harris, who previously coached at Ness City before joining TMP in 2016. “These seniors, I am their third coach in four years. They’re just looking for somebody that will stick around and take care of them. That’s my plan.”
Harris inherits a team that went 3-6 last year for the second straight season. The Monarchs return seven starters on offense and six on defense off last season's team that beat Ellis (14-7), Minneapolis (14-7) and Lyons (45-12).
Returning players who played significant roles in 2018 include Carson Jacobs (WR/DB), Ethan Atherton (OL/DL), Colby Dreiling (RB/LB), Marcus Lagree (OL/DL), Weston Pfeifer (OL/DL), Ryan Richmeier (OL/DL) Bryce Seib (QB/LB) and Jace Wentling (WR/LB).
“These seniors are great leaders,” Harris said. “Colby Dreiling, Ethan Atherton, Ryan Richmeier, Weston Pfeifer. These guys are stepping up and wanting to be leaders.
“There’s seven seniors total. All seven of them are going to be good leaders for us.”
TMP will have to replace last year’s leading tackler and rusher Kaleb Hagans, now at Kansas Wesleyan.
The Monarchs scored just 79 points in 2018, perhaps struggling to adapt to a run-heavy offense after relying on an aerial attack the previous two years. Harris said he’s looking for a balanced offense.
“We’ve got a good receiving corps,” he said. “I’d really like to stay more 50-50 run and pass. I’m willing to throw a lot more.”
Harris was still evaluating TMP’s starting quarterback situation as of the first week of practice.
“That’s kind of open still,” Harris said. “We’ve got a couple different people we’re looking at.”
Harris said he has been pleased with the Monarchs’ attitude as they look to build a winning culture. TMP is aiming to end a 16-year playoff drought.
“They did a great job this summer getting in the weight room,” Harris said. “With our summer workouts, they bought into all of that. They were chomping at the bit to get out here and get going.”
The Monarchs will open the season at defending Class 1A state champion Smith Center.
“I am so exciting about this group of guys and what we can do this year,” Harris said.