Head Coach: Kevin Shearer, 10th year
Last Season: 7-4, beat Santa Fe in first round of districts, lost to Concordia in second round
Top Players Returning: Brandon Thoennes, RB, DE; Jesse Niccum, C; Koby Knievel, TE
Top Players lost: Tanner Oelrichs, QB; Ramon Jamerson, RB; Andrey Garbuzov, OL; Dalton Metzner, LB
Top Newcomers: Mason Massingill, RB; Nik Clifton, QB; Jaycob Schrader, QB
Offense: Power run
Defense: Multiple front
Officially, it was unofficial.
With just four Kaysinger Conference schools playing a full varsity schedule in 2013, there was no official conference title so Cole Camp’s 3-0 record against Kaysinger teams counts as an unofficial championship. Unofficial or not, the Bluebirds still see themselves as the defending champions.
“We took a lot of pride in unofficially winning last year,” said senior tight end Koby Knievel. “To actually raise a banner this year would be pretty awesome.”
The Bluebirds have to replace a pair of playmakers in skill positions on offense with the graduation of running back Ramon Jamerson and quarterback Tanner Oelrichs.
At Quarterback, junior Nik Clifton and sophomore Jaycob Schrader will compete for time. Both played JV last season. Clifton has a strong arm and is more of the traditional pocket quarterback. Schrader is athletic and has spent time in the weight room this summer building his strength.
“We will try to get whoever is the backup an opportunity in a varsity game, either one series or a series a half,” Shearer said.
Four players will see playing time at running back. Brandon Thoennes proved to be a reliable back last season splitting time with Jamerson.
“Mainly to prepare for that, in the off season I hit the weight room hard,” Thoennes said. “Through these few weeks of camp, I’ve really concentrated on where I need to be and how I can help the team.”
Through that work in the weight room, Thoennes said he’s put on 15 pounds and feels more confident on the field.
“I feel like I’ve got what I have to do down,” he said. “We’re just working on having all of our backs be able to rotate through.”
Darryn Frain, Austin Berendzen and Mason Massingill are also in the mix. Frain gained a reputation as a big-play runner. Berendzen was used primarily for blocking last season and Shearer likes his toughness. Massingill is a transfer who Shearer said comes in with a lot of speed.
“We’re very pleased at that position,” Shearer said.
Those running backs will be behind a veteran line, which returns four players, including 6-5, 330 pound senior center Jesse Niccum.
“The line is looking fairly good,” Niccum said. “Most people are veterans on this football team and have been able to retain knowledge from past years. We’re a rush-based team so we’re very good at that, but we’ve been adapting to a pass offense.”
The Bluebirds depth and experience on the line is a sharp difference from 2013 when Cole Camp returned just one offensive line starter — Andrey Garbuzov. Shearer thinks his line can go six or seven deep, making it possible to give players a rest and rotate others through.
“We can take a series off with an O-lineman,” Shearer said. “When you get those big boys feeling good at the end of the game, you can really get the ball moving.”
JR Schrader and Chase Bryan hold down the guard spots with Alex Cramer and Zach Sprinkle at tackle. Three tight ends will be in the mix with 6-5 senior Knievel holding down one spot and Kyle Chamberlain and Kendal Shearer competing for the other spot.
“We’re even deep there,” Kevin Shearer said. “We can rotate there. They’ll all rotate in there at all three positions.”
On defense the Bluebirds will often show a five-man front but will mix in a lot of other looks.
“We still return a lot of kids but there’s still a question mark there,” Shearer said. “We will be fast. We won’t be Ramon Jamerson fast, we don’t have that one child like that. We’ll miss him quite a bit, but we’ll be faster as a team and we’ll be deeper as a team.”
In 10 years at Cole Camp, Shearer said he’s never seen a team where subs can come in with little or no difference in the level of play.
“That is the strength of this football team,” Shearer said.