Monday, 19 March 2018
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Big Seven League Football Preview
Copyright: MSC Sports

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The 2016 season was another solid year for the Big 7 with two teams making it to Sub-State of the four League schools that qualified for the playoffs.  Both Nemaha Central (3A) and Holton (4AD2) advanced to Sub State, while Sabetha won another playoff game and Perry Lecompton also made the post-season after dropping to Class 3A.  It was the 19th straight year for Holton in the playoffs and 9th straight for Sabetha.  All the Thunder have done is go 19-1 in Big 7 regular season games since they became Nemaha Central High School three years ago.  The Thunder repeated as undefeated League champs last season and have won 15 straight Big 7 games. 

Big wins over Holton (43-42) and Sabetha (20-14) helped lead to undefeated regular season for second straight year and ultimately a season that finished in the Sub-State round of the 3A playoffs, just a few plays away from a trip to the State title game. However, NEMAHA CENTRAL fell to eventual 3A champ Rossville by five points. A 12-1 record an 29-5 mark in three years as the Thunder, Nemaha Central looks poised to have another strong campaign under Coach Warren Seitz. There is little question the Big 7 Title goes through Seneca and the 2017 team returns seven starters on offense and five on defense.  That is more returners than last year and athletic depth is plentiful for the purple and blue as they look to continue their dominance and winning ways.

SABETHA has now won at least one playoff game in four of the last five years and finished 9-2 last year, while the JV went 6-1.  The Bluejays lost 14 strong seniors and return only two starters on offense.  However, Coach Garrett Michael enters his 9th year as Head Coach (21st at Sabetha) with 19 letter-winners back and six starters on defense.  Sabetha is searching for the right quarterback to guide a fairly new backfield.  Yet, they return numerous upper-classmen with varsity experience and enough skilled athletes that are ready to step up and take their turn as leaders for a team that just doesn't beat themselves and looks to match a plus 15 turnover ratio from last season with a tougher schedule. 

Despite their string of seven straight League titles ending the last couple years, HOLTON has remained more than competitive in the Big 7 and been a fixture in the top few spots of the standings each of the last 21 years under Coach Brooks Barta.  Holton had only 13 seniors last year and expects even fewer this fall.  They must replace a talented backfield, much like Nemaha and Sabetha, but does have a top quarterback returning and their top two tacklers on defense, among six returning starters.  The Wildcats will likely rely on some underclassmen to provide depth and fill a few key roles at the skill positions. 

PERRY LECOMPTON lost more starters than any other League team and has only one returning starter on both sides of the ball for 2017.  Coach Mike Paramore begins his 17th season with 13 lettermen back, but a lot of questions marks including which juniors and sophomores will step into starting roles behind a smaller senior class.  The Kaws will also be one of the smaller Big 7 squads this year, but have benefited from a light early schedule and the drop to Class 3A, as they look for a return trip to the post season and winning record for the first time six years.

Like Perry, ROYAL VALLEY dropped to the Class 3A ranks last year, but just missed the playoffs.  The Panthers were shutout in three of their first four games a year ago and scored just once in weeks five and seven.  Nine seniors have graduated; however, 16 lettermen are returning including a handful of starters for fourth year Coach Jake Lott, who looks to cut down on turnovers to improve their offense and win total for 2017. 

Last year's biggest surprised was the HIAWATHA Redhawks who were picked last and hadn't won a League game since 2013.  Yet, led by first-year Coach Ted Brown, the Redhawks won their first game of the season and pitched their first shutout since 2007, while starting 3-1 and putting respect and confidence back in the program.  Hiawatha lost more than half their starters however and only returns two seniors from last year's roster with a lot of underclassmen again expected to contribute on Friday nights.  The Hawks won't sneak up on anyone this year as they look to take the next step forward. 

JEFF WEST and RIVERSIDE both struggled mightily last year, in large part because of injuries that depleted their rosters.  Both teams return a starting quarterback, but have nine athletes to replace, despite more than half their starters back on both sides of the ball.  Jeff West had as many as five freshman starting on varsity during a 1-8 campaign and may have at least that many underclassmen securing starting roles on Friday nights again this year for 12th year Coach Steve Johnson.  The Tigers went 7-1 on JV and could be a surprise turn-around team if some key pieces fall into place and they stay healthy. Riverside has the most experienced signal caller in the League and some other solid skill players back with experience.  However, seventh year Coach Scot Koranda must find four new starting lineman, a spot many other Big 7 teams have more experience, size and depth.     

ACCHS brings in the only new League coach as first year head man Corey Thomas inherits a Tiger team coming off a winless season. The Tigers bring back experience with three starters up front, and can hopefully level the playing field.  Coach Thomas knows the defense can’t allow 55 points per game, but the success of the Tigers is ultimately going to come down to whether the underclassman can step up and contribute with a small roster compared to most every team on their schedule.

©2018 MSC Sports
Hiawatha, KS 66434
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