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Local Sports News
Big 7 League Football Preview
By Jonny Kane and Justin Fluke
Copyright: MSC Sports
09/02/2020

There is no doubt, the Big 7 is one of the best and most well-respected leagues in the state of Kansas. And if anyone had any doubt, 2019 provided plenty of evidence. Six of the eight league schools had at least six wins and qualified for the post season. Two made it to the state championship game and one took the title. Those six teams also went a combined 28-12 against non-league foes and four of the league teams won a playoff game to advance in the bracket. There are no new coaches for 2020, but what a bunch of class-act, veteran and well respected leaders the Big 7 can be really proud of, making it no surprise why the League is so good and well respected across the state. 

Sabetha repeated as league champs but bowed out of the playoffs early against Hayden to end their two-year state title defense in Class 3A. Riverside was the biggest surprise team coming off a pair of seasons with two-wins, the Cyclones went 6-3 under first-year Head Coach Bryce Paden. Holton rebounded from a rare losing season by winning a district title and finishing third in the league and winning a playoff game. Jeff West went 4-0 in the Big 7 to win a share of the league title for the first time in school history while Nemaha Central rattled off nine straight wins following a 2-2 start to claim the 2A championship for the first time in school history and Perry Lecompton beat Hayden twice while advancing to the 3A title game for just the second time in school history before falling short against Andale. All six of these teams have a chance to be very good again in 2020, and with new schedules and districts, have a legitimate chance to see a handful of Big 7 teams make another deep post season run and hopefully challenge for a fourth straight year of a League team being crowned state champion.

 

The PERRY LECOMPTON Kaws appear to be the team to beat returning eight of their 11 starters on both sides of the football.  Coach Mike Paramore enters his 20th season at Perry with a talented and experienced senior class and has all the weapons to support a balanced offense and stout defense to make another title run.

The HOLTON Wildcats also have a lot of strong returners with experience and a star-studded sophomore class providing as much depth as anyone in the league. With seven starters back, the Cats hope to pick up where they left off last season and have the pieces to be a dominant team making a deep run in the loaded wishbone attack in Coach Brooks Barta’s 25th campaign.

JEFF WEST is coming off their best season since 2009 and first league title. Both the Tigers losses came by a single score against Hayden as they beat everyone else on the slate. It’s year number 15 for Coach Steve Johnson who doesn’t have the luxury of as many starters after losing six senior starters, including four now competing at the collegiate level. JW has a senior class of 17 entering 2020 but only a handful of returning starters and most all the guys touching the football will be varsity newcomers. Yet, some big lineman and a stout defense, including the reigning 3A player of the year, should keep this team confident and churning out wins. 

NEMAHA CENTRAL showed last season that it does not matter what happens at the beginning of the year it is all about how you finish as the Thunder ran the table and captured a 2A State Championship. Heading into last season the Nemaha Central Thunder had plenty of question marks with only four starters back on offense and seven starters back on defense going into week one. Despite that, the Thunder just did whatever they needed each week and bought in to the philosophies of Coach Seitz. Just like last season Nemaha Central heads into this season with several question marks as only five starters return on offense and four on defense, leaving Coach Seitz with plenty of work to do as the Thunder begin their 2A title defense.

RIVERSIDE won’t surprise anyone this year but does have a lot of momentum and now familiarity with Coach Paden entering year number two. The Cyclones have a talented junior quarterback and weapons on offense to score but must find some new lineman and improve on defense to take the next step for their program. 

SABETHA host Riverside in week two which should be a great game as the Bluejays have all the history and tradition including making the playoffs for all 12 consecutive seasons with Garrett Michael as Head Coach. Yet, some big-time playmakers are gone, including the most successful senior class in school history that went 41-6 winning a pair of league and state titles. New leaders must emerge, especially on defense after losing 7 of their top 10 tacklers from last year and some fresh starters across the line is critical to being able to control the pigskin on the ground.

ROYAL VALLEY are coming off a one-win season after playing one of the toughest schedules in the state with all but one game against a team with a winning record that made the playoffs. The Panthers have made too many mistakes to overcome against great teams and lost seven games by at least 28 points each before the season finale. Coach Jake Lott begins year seven on the sidelines in Hoyt, but also lost a experienced and talented senior class with more than half the starters graduating and well over half the offensive production to replace.

HIAWATHA is among the smallest 3A schools in the state and numbers have not been good. With small senior classes out for football the last couple years, freshman and sophomores have been forced into varsity roles, and that is likely the case again in 2020 under second-year Coach Michael Downard. The Redhawks program is just looking for some stability and confidence following four coaches and only 10 wins over the last six seasons.


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Hiawatha, KS 66434
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