Hopkins says team must improve next year
Basehor-Linwood High School football coach Steve Hopkins could make a lot of excuses for his team's 2-7 finish. He could bring up that his starting quarterback was a freshman and his leading rusher was a sophomore. He could talk about the Bobcats' tough league schedule, which didn't include Immaculata (2-3) and Santa Fe Trail (3-3), two of the Kaw Valley League's more beatable teams. He could talk about injuries to players like Jacob Schierbaum, Bruce Tyner and Ben Adams.
But no one is likely to hear any of that from Hopkins. He could have forseen all of those difficulties, except maybe the injuries, in the preseason, yet he still expected his team to improve on last year's 3-6 record. Even given the Bobcats' youth and strength of schedule, he said he still thought they should have won more games.
"We did not get the job done in some key games as coaches, and as a team," Hopkins said.
Given the coaching controversy just down the road in Bonner Springs, and the general short shelf-life of high school coaches, Hopkins said he knows the clock may be ticking, although this was only his third season at BLHS.
"The administration has been very supportive this season, but we need to improve next year no matter what," Hopkins said emphatically.
The Bobcats looked pretty overmatched in losses to Piper, Bishop Ward, Tonganoxie, Perry-Lecompton and Mill Valley this season. Those games were all lost by at least 29 points, so it seems unlikely that any combination of great coaching, outstanding play and luck would have made up those differences. But the two league losses to Bonner Springs and Lansing were the ones that might have kept Hopkins and his staff up at night.
The Bobcats lost by a single point to Bonner Springs, despite playing in a very hostile environment. A month later the Bobcats' defense played its best game of the year against Lansing, forcing overtime. But that game also ended in a loss. If a few plays go the Bobcats' way in those two games BLHS might have finished 4-5 and felt a lot better about the season.
"The one point loss to Bonner and the overtime loss to Lansing were games where one or two key plays could have made a difference and one or two key coaching decisions could also have made a difference," Hopkins said. "The team never quite recovered from those early losses."
The good news for Hopkins and the Bobcats is that they will be one of the most experienced teams in the league next season.
They lose only four seniors and will return four mammoth offensive linemen, as well as a slew of experienced running backs. They should be able to pound the running game and put Brandon Leppke in better positions to succeed as a quarterback in his sophomore year.
"We did gain valuable experience for our younger players (this year), which we believe will translate into wins next year," Hopkins said.
The offense loses only one senior in lineman Chad Whitlow. The defense will be shaken up a little more. That unit loses three starters in Adams, a defensive back, and linebackers Kevin Marshall and Nick Davis.
Marshall provided a number of highlights this season, finishing with 14 sacks, which Hopkins said is probably a school record. The other seniors also were able to salvage some nice memories from a tough season.
Davis completed a pass for a first down on a fake punt against Tonganoxie. Adams made the best catch of the year for the Bobcats while playing wide receiver against Piper. And Whitlow played a key role in the victory over Westport, recovering a fumble for a touchdown.
"The smile on his face after recovering the fumble for a TD against Westport was a memory and a dream for all linemen," Hopkins said.
There weren't a whole lot of happy memories for the Bobcats to take from this year, but Hopkins' hope is that one day the 2006 season will be known as one that set a foundation for future winning seasons.