COLE CAMP — After finishing with a 9-2 record and making it to the district semifinals last season, the Cole Camp Bluebirds are pursuing a district title this season.
“Definitely wanting to make it to the district championship,” said running back and linebacker Brandon Thoennes. “That’s a big thing for us. We lost in the second round of districts last year and we’re tired of that. We want to finally get a district championship for the school.”
Cole Camp’s strong defense was one of the reasons for last season’s success.
“Defense usually starts everything,” said defensive back and running back Austin Berendzen. “Defense sets the tone. Defense is pretty much the game.”
Berendzen will return to the secondary, but overall that’s an area of concern for Cole Camp coach Kevin Shearer.
Levi Hair has a broken foot, so the Bluebirds may not have him back there until after the first few games of the season.
“Really that secondary is where we’re concerned about, but for us we always have to stop the run first,” Shearer said. “That’s definitely our emphasis at this point.”
Two of the players who will be responsible for stopping the run will be linebackers Thoennes and Zach Sprinkle.
“He’s probably the most college ready kid we have,” Shearer said of Sprinkle. “He’s 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, so he’s college ready if the right college finds him.”
Thoennes and Sprinkle have had the outside covered, but the inside is a concern for Cole Camp.
“That’s probably one part of our ball club that we lost was our interior D-line,” Shearer said. “We lost the (Dalton) Tucker and (Zach) Craig kid, and (Jesse) Niccum. Them were big bodies… That hurt us losing those big boys. We’ll go with a little bit smaller D-line in the interior, but it’s the most athletic D-line I’ve had. I’m excited to see how that works for us.”
Thoennes said he has confidence in the defensive line.
“We have a very strong defensive line,” he said. “I think that will be the highlight of our defense. We have all experienced linebackers. We have a couple new guys on the corners, but other than that we’re pretty defensively sound.”
On the offensive side, the Bluebirds are hoping the offensive line can lead the way for their running game once again.
“You would think that would be a strong suit for us,” Shearer said. “We’ll see. We have had two underclassmen push our existing seniors and I predict they’ll displace someone, which is a great competition thing to have at that position.”
While Cole Camp looks to fill some voids, they are still working toward at least matching what they accomplished last season.
“We do have a lot of pressure on us coming in at 9-2 last year,” Thoennes said. “All we can do is go undefeated in the regular season. Losing to Osceola, that really hurt us. We just need to come out and not bend at all. We’ve got to come back harder.”
Jason Strickland can be reached at 660-530-0147 or on Twitter @J_Strick_Sports.