New lineup for BLHS, but goals are the same
The turf and names in the program might be all that has changed at Basehor-Linwood High School this season.
The mindset is the same for football players and coaches.
The Bobcats practice daily with the same goals as a year ago and are looking to repeat the successes of last season.
Last year, Basehor-Linwood set a program record for wins in a season when it posted an 8-2 record. Brandon Leppke was a finalist for the Fontana Award, given to the Kansas City metro area’s top small-school player. The team won a memorable district playoff game against Piper, and it lost to Jefferson County West a few days later in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Now, coaches run practices and attempt to mesh together a new lineup of players. Coaches are looking to accent the team’s core group of returning players with new players who are ready to step in and play.
Despite losing 20 seniors to graduation, the Bobcats’ goals will not change.
“We never change the ultimate goal of winning a state championship,” coach Steve Hopkins said. “Our basketball kids have experienced that; they have a taste of that success and believe in themselves.”
Along the way, there are measuring sticks for the team.
Basehor-Linwood wants to win its first game of the season against Piper. The Bobcats also want to win their district, which opens with a game against Jeff West.
Jeff West will be a game that allows the Bobcats to measure how much progress was made while playing Kaw Valley League opponents Bishop Ward, Lansing, Bonner Springs, Turner and Mill Valley during the regular season.
Basehor-Linwood will play Tonganoxie and Perry-Lecompton in its other district games.
While BLHS lost a talented class of seniors, it returns a talented group of skill-position players on offense.
Colin Murphy will take over for four-year starter Brandon Leppke at quarterback. Murphy took snaps for the Bobcats last season while playing the rest of the time at wide receiver. The 6-foot-6 quarterback likely will line up as a receiver during some situations this season, Hopkins said. Colin’s twin brother Ryan will play the other receiver position, causing issues for opposing defenses.
Steyr Stubenrauch has had a solid summer on offense and defense. He looks to play a slash position this season, running and catching the ball out of the backfield.
“He is by far our most consistent threat to run and catch,” Hopkins said. “That is going to be huge. He did a great job. He is our most versatile defensive player. He plays five positions depending on defensive calls. I have to say of all the skill players he was the most impressive.”
The team’s other returning offensive players include Jesse Hiss and Chandler King. King has run well in scrimmages and practices thus far, including a scrimmage the team had on Saturday.
“King had a good day running the ball,” Hopkins said. “I was really pleased about that. The big thing is we have to keep hydrated. He goes all out so much. You worry how many reps to go before getting him water.”
Caleb Johnson is the team’s lone returning starter on the offensive line.
“Caleb Johnson on the front is a real leader for us,” Hopkins said. “He tells our linemen what to do on each play. On defense, he is a beast to block.”
BLHS also returns a talented group of players on defense.
The team’s linebacker unit is an anticipated strength, Hopkins said. King and Hiss are three-year starters at the position. Stubenrauch also has multiple years of experience playing the position, giving the Bobcats a nucleus of solid tacklers.
There is competition for the other linebacker spot, and Miles Brown figures to factor into the mix.
In the secondary, Nathan Quigley — who led the team in interceptions last season — returns for the Bobcats.
Up front, Caleb Johnson will play on the line alongside Ben Johnson, a 6-foot-5 defensive end who has played well in practice.
The team will play on turf this season and has already realized the benefits of switching to turf from the normal grass surface that graced the stadium in recent years.
“The greatest benefit is to practice” Hopkins said. “Friday night we had all that wind and I woke up a couple times and thought, ‘Oh no, in mud. Then I thought, no we are on turf, we will be fine and went back to sleep.’ I think that is the greatest benefit.”
Basehor-Linwood plays host to Piper at 7 p.m. Friday Sept. 3 in the season-opener.