Bobcats grew into strong squad
During the 2008 season, the Basehor-Linwood football team instrumented changes that it hopes will lead to more wins in the future.
The team changed offenses.
Gone was the power running attack. In was a spread formation.
On defense, gone was a four-down lineman set and in its place was a 3-5 set designed to pressure the quarterback and get more linebackers on the field.
Also gone were a large senior group of players from last season. In its place were seven seniors and a slew of underclassmen seeing their initial varsity playing time.
Yes, it was a year of firsts as coach Steve Hopkins looked to build depth. He implemented a system that had players contribute on just one side of the football.
With all the changes, Basehor-Linwood finished the season with a 4-6 overall record and a Kaw Valley League record of 3-5.
The team also made its second consecutive trip to the Class 4A state playoffs.
The Bobcats’ season ended with a 48-8 loss to Holton.
A schedule filled with a lot of 5A schools prepared Basehor-Linwood for district play, but injuries left the team looking to fill critical spots in the lineup with four starters out.
“Physically, it takes a toll,” Hopkins said. “We held together during district play, but by the time we played Holton, we were pretty beat up.”
Recapping the regular season
After starting the season with a 23-7 victory over Santa Fe Trail, Basehor-Linwood lost three tough games to Bonner Springs, Mill Valley and Turner.
In the fifth game of the year, Basehor-Linwood’s offense exploded with 42 points, equaling that of the previous three games, in a victory over Washington High School.
Lansing defeated Basehor-Linwood 43-8 the next week. Lansing was able to pound the football against the Bobcats.
With their Class 5A schedule behind them — one that included playoff teams in Mill Valley, Lansing and Turner — Basehor-Linwood prepared for district play. Hopkins said he built his team to be ready for district competition.
In the first week of district play, Basehor defeated Tonganoxie 38-15.
With a win in the first week of district play, the Bobcats would likely need to win one more game in order to advance to the state playoffs.
The following week, Bishop Ward dominated the fourth quarter and defeated Basehor-Linwood, 30-6.
“We still control our own destiny,” Hopkins told his team after the game.
A week later, Basehor-Linwood defeated Piper, 7-0, to qualify for the state playoffs and a trip to Holton.
Bishop Ward won the district title and Basehor-Linwood placed second. Hopkins said the Bobcats are focused on winning districts next season and would like to play the first game of the state playoffs at home.
Looking toward next season
The future looks promising for the Bobcats. The team will return all but two starters on offense. The list includes Brandon Leppke, Basehor-Linwood’s dual threat quarterback that accounted for most of the team’s offense last season.
Leppke completed 42.9 percent of his passes for 1,285 yards. He threw 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Leppke also rushed the football 150 times for 876 yards. He scored eight touchdowns.
The Bobcats will return with a talented group of receivers including Ryan and Colin Murphy, a talented pair of twins who made leaping catches throughout the season.
The players made Basehor-Linwood a team capable of throwing well in some games, and running well in others. Entering next year, Hopkins said he is seeking consistency.
“We had games where we threw well and games where we ran well, but we could not put it all together,” Hopkins said. “We have got to be better, we can’t be one dimensional.”
On defense, Anthony Pierce was a statistical leader for the Bobcats this season. He led the team with 74 tackles, 16 for loss and also finished the year with 11 sacks.
“Anthony Pierce led our defense and was the player we counted on to make big plays,” he said.
Chandler King led the team with 102 tackles, with 19 for losses.
Jesse Hiss was another leading tackler, with 75 tackles on the season. Of that number, 11 tackles were for loss.
Hopkins also likes the players he has returning to the team.
“We are really excited with the young men we have back to play that style,” he said. “They adjusted really well to it.”
Yes, the adjustments might be behind this team as it prepares for next season with the goal of winning districts and advancing further in the state playoffs.