With Smith Center’s championship culture, Darren Sasse has found that his players have no trouble making sacrifices and adapting to new roles to keep the program on top.
Sasse will look for that trend to continue as the Redmen set their sights on a third straight state championship.
“Our kids, they are really unselfish,” Sasse said. “If they have to move to another position because they’re a good player but they’re not the best at the position, they’re really willing to do that.
“We’ve moved fullbacks to the line, we’ve moved people to tight end. Just trying to get everybody that needs to be playing on the field. The kids have been really unselfish about that over the years.”
Smith Center returns key pieces off last year’s Class 1A title team, but will have to replace its top three rushers from last season in Ethan Peterson (1,348 yards), Colby Benoit (1,280) and Hesston Maxwell (665).
The Redmen will see some players move from others position into the backfield this year, including senior Aaron Moss.
“Last year, (Moss) moved to tight end, and he was a good tight end, but he’ll be moving back to the backfield," Sasse said. "Jaden Atwood and Colton Shoemaker — both played a lot of defense last year — they’ll be playing more on the offensive side this year. Nathan Hendrich is another one that we’re looking to step up back there.”
After winning a Class 2A-1A title in 2017, the Redmen went 12-1 last year and capped off a dominant playoff run with a 59-0 rout over Olpe in the 1A championship game at Lewis Field Stadium.
The Redmen made things look easy at times last year, outscored its opponent its 548-109. But Sasse wants this year's team taking for nothing granted.
“The more I’ve done this over the years — these first weeks after a year like last year, it kind of takes them a while to realize they’ve got to talk and communicate,” Sasse said. “So much of that stuff came so natural at the end of last season. It just takes some time to build that communication.
“I think they’ve been doing better at that (as practice goes on). Looking forward to the first game to kind of see where we’re at.”
Trenton Colby is back at quarterback to help direct Smith Center’s patented wishbone offense. Atwood led the team with 102 tackles last year.
Sasse said the Redmen have no shortage of leaders.
“It’s just another great senior class,” Sasse said. “The whole senior class, I’ve been happy with their leadership during the summer and heading into the beginning of the season.”
Smith Center will kickoff the season and Mid-Continent League play at home against Thomas More Prep-Marian on Sept. 6.