Every year, a coach needs to replace a senior class.
This year, Plainville football coach Grant Stephenson needs to find replacements for Jared Casey and Jordan Finnesy from a 10-2 team that made it to the sub-state championship game. Casey, a star middle linebacker and running back, is with the Kansas Jayhawks this fall. Finnesy, a standout defensive back and quarterback, signed with Washburn.
"I’m super excited about the season," said Stephenson, who has gone 41-17 in five years as the Cardinals’ head coach. "I’m a little down when the season’s over, see a good senior class leave. But I tell you what, the next group of freshmen through seniors, our kids grew. There might be some teams who think we’ll be down this year, but I hope we can show them otherwise."
Taking over at running back will be sophomore Kyle Werner, who Stephenson said did a good job filling in for Casey for three games last season after Casey broke his hand.
"He’s just gotten bigger and stronger," Stephenson said. "I’m very excited to have Kyle in there playing running back."
The Cardinals run a spread offense, using four wide receivers. One of those wide outs last year was Ethan Hamilton. The junior will move to quarterback this fall.
"He throws an excellent ball," Stephenson said. "He makes good decisions in practice, is learning. I feel confident with him playing there."
Stephenson said although he has to replace Casey and Finnesy on defense, he still has several returners from last year.
"There’s some holes to fill, but we should be solid," Stephenson said.
A hole in the schedule this year is the absence of Mid-Continent League rival Norton. Class 1A now has four districts, with seven teams in each district. Plainville will have six district games and two non-district opponents. Thomas More Prep-Marian and Phillipsburg are the Cardinals’ non-district opponents this year, with Plainville traveling to Phillipsburg on Sept. 4 for the season opener.
"We liked playing some of those bigger schools, good competition for us," Stephenson said, adding he will miss playing every MCL school this year. "It’s sad that we’ve gotten away from that."
Stephenson is happy to have a team on the practice field this week, falling into the normal rhythms of football, even with added health and safety protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It’s good just to be together," Stephenson said.