The Thomas More Prep-Marian football team finished 3-6 for the third straight year last season, but it felt like a step forward for the Monarchs.
TMP ended the year on a strong note, upsetting Ellsworth 31-20 in Week 8 and closing the season with a 54-0 blowout of Ellinwood.
The Monarchs will look to carry the momentum into this season, starting with Friday’s opener against Oakley at 7 p.m. at Lewis Field Stadium.
"Won our last two games and saw some good things, figured out some things that we can utilize this year and build on that and go forward," second-year TMP head coach Jay Harris said.
Kade Harris made an immediate impact for the Monarchs last year as a freshman. Harris rushed for 622 yards and 10 touchdowns and passed for 695 yards and six touchdowns. He started the season at running back and then took over quarterback duties. He is expected to be TMP’s starting quarterback this season. Harris also had 69 tackles at defensive back last year.
Junior Jace Wentling had 333 yards receiving and had three interceptions last year, while senior senior lineman Garrett Pfeifer had four sacks.
Other returning starters include junior running back/linebacker Bryce Seib, junior running back/defensive back Lance Lang, senior running back/linebacker Jace Lang, junior receiver/defensive back Mark Rack, junior lineman Matt Hess and sophomore linebacker Michael Hale.
"We’ve got some pretty decent senior leadership," Jay Harris said. "Garrett Pfeifer, Marcus Lagree, Jace Lang they’re going to have to be relied on to step up. All of our seniors are going to have to step up.
"Then we have a couple seniors coming out that didn’t play last year. They saw what we were doing and thought they’d like to join us, so that’s been really good, too."
After struggling early in the year, Harris said TMP’s offense started to find its groove late in the season last year.
"Just continue to grow," he said. "We saw some good things that we could do and we can build on for this year and just continue on with that."
Harris is also looking for his defense to build off a solid year.
"I thought last year our defense did a really good job," he said. "Coach (T.J.) Gottschalk has them playing real well. We just need to keep them going in the right direction."
The Monarchs will be in a new district, resulting in a different slate of Mid-Continent League opponents. After playing Smith Center, Phillipsburg, Plainville and Norton last year in the league, this year TMP will play Russell, Oakley, Plainville and Ellis for MCL contests.
TMP’s district includes Cimarron, Ellis, Southwestern Heights, Lakin and Syracuse.