Norton Community High School football coach Lucas Melvin is looking for his 2020 group of Bluejays to take over starting roles and continue the program’s tradition of success.


Melvin enters his 15th season as Norton’s head coach, going 102-47. Last year, the Bluejays made it to the state championship game, losing 19-0 to Nemaha Central. Norton lost several key players off that 9-4 squad.


"It will be important for our younger guys to step up; not many seniors or juniors but a lot of sophomores," Melvin said. "We need some guys to step up, fill those holes of guys we lost last year."


Anchoring the line will be 6-foot-6, 250-pound offensive tackle and defensive tackle Christien Hawks, a KU commit. The Bluejays have three other senior starters Melvin is counting on in Jonah Ruder (WR/QB-DB), Gavin Sproul (RB-DE) and Ryan Schrum (WR-DB).


Ruder and sophomore Sean Anderson are competing for snaps at QB.


"I would say we’re leaning toward Jonah, but Sean Anderson is another kid that’s been trying to help us out there, also," Melvin said.


Melvin said the program’s tradition of success is helpful.


"Kids have expectations to do well," Melvin said. "We’ve been fortunate to do pretty well most years. But that’s not a given. You’ve got to go out and earn it."


Norton opens the season at home Friday, against Mid-Continent League rival and perennial state power Smith Center. Melvin has lost five straight against the Redmen and is 3-11 overall.


"They’re a tremendous program," Melvin said. "They’re a league school, that adds some rivalry to it. It’s a team you do want to play well against. They’re so hard to beat."


Playing a tough team in your first game is not ideal for a team with players in new roles, but both squads face the same obstacles.


"Obviously, you wish you had a little more experience going into the game," Melvin said. "It’s their first game, too."


Melvin is still seeking his first state championship. His players know what’s expected, year in and year out.


"You want those expectations," Melvin said. "I’d rather have expectations like that than the other (way)."