A trifecta of Bobcats earns all-league football honors
The Basehor-Linwood High School football team didn't win any league games this year, but a few Bobcats did make an impression on the coaches.
Last week the Kaw Valley League coaches voted to give all-league honors to three BLHS players. Kevin Marshall was voted to the first team defensive line for his work as a linebacker and defensive end.
The senior was a force for the Bobcats, even when games seemed out of reach. He finished with 14 sacks, which coach Steve Hopkins said was probably a school record.
"Kevin was definitely deserving, due to his big plays and relentless pursuit," Hopkins said.
Marshall was the closest thing the Bobcats had to a shoo-in for all-league honors. But two of his teammates also joined him on the post season lists.
Ethan Douglas, a junior, made second team and Swede Johnson, a sophomore, made honorable mention on the offensive line.
"I was pleased about Ethan and Swede," Hopkins said. "They were both deserving and yet, they both want to take the next step, improve individually and help our team improve."
It was a bit surprising that the Bobcats got two offensive linemen on the list. Offensive linemen are often judged by their team's running ability and the Bobcats only had a 100-yard rusher in one game this season.
With their size, though, Douglas (6-foot-6, 273 pounds) and Johnson (6-foot-2, 283 pounds), were a handful for any defensive line. They teamed with junior Austin Hunter (6-foot, 274 pounds), to give the Bobcats a line that matched up well physically with just about anyone.
Douglas, Johnson and Hunter will all return next year, along with freshman center Zach Ross. The offensive line will lose senior Chad Whitlow, but Hopkins is still banking on the unit to be a big part of a resurgence after this year's 2-7 finish.
"We were not as consistent as we would have liked, but Ethan, Swede and Austin Hunter were, at times, dominant," Hopkins said.
More consistent play on the offensive line and more cohesion between that unit and the team's plethora of running backs could give the offense a nice foundation next season.
The passing game should also improve, with freshman Brandon Leppke getting his first full off-season to work with the receivers as the first-string quarterback.
The defense may have some harder adjustments to make next season, after losing Marshall and fellow senior starters Nick Davis and Ben Adams. But Hopkins plans to make improving that unit a top priority.
"We will travel, as a staff, to a couple of colleges to study what they are doing defensively and put together a plan this coming winter and spring," Hopkins said. "To compete with the top programs we must become better first at stopping the run, so that will be our focus, and that begins with the front seven to eight players improving their strength and quickness."
It should help for those players to have a full off-season to work with strength and conditioning coach Ross Schwisow, who is also the squad's defensive coordinator. Schwisow will have a big impact on the team next year, both in the weight room and on the sidelines.
"Having Ross able to sit down with me and plan our defense will help tremendously, since he was only hired late (second week of June) last year and we already had committed to certain defenses without receiving his input," Hopkins said. "I'm looking forward to working with him to plan the entire defensive structure."
New scheming from Hopkins and Schwisow should help lessen the blow of losing Marshall. Meanwhile, the Bobcats' other all-league honorees, Douglas and Johnson, will return to lead an offense that Hopkins expects to be much-improved.
After finishing 3-6 and 2-7 the last two years, Hopkins and his crew will try for a return to the state playoffs for the first time since 2004, his first season as head coach.
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