Central High School lost two key components on both sides of the football including quarterback Josh Dunning, who led the Cougars last season with 731 yards rushing to go with 1,327 yards passing, and linebacker Caleb Thomas, who amassed 82 tackles.
How will head coach Brian Short replace that kind of production? With a lot of returning depth and experience.
Short welcomes back 29 seniors and juniors from last year’s 4-5 team, eight of which found the end zone at least once and 34 of which registered at least one solo tackle.
Brent Thomas leads the pack of returning starters. The senior running back had 653 yards on 140 carries with seven touchdowns for 2014.
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Domonic Weary, last season’s sacks leader with three, will return to anchor the defensive line.
Filling Dunning’s shoes will be either senior Brock Nunn or junior Hunter Toeben. Between the two, Toeben has varsity experience at the position, having completed 3-of-8 pass attempts for 55 yards and a touchdown as Dunning’s sophomore understudy.
The Cougars will be without last year’s top receiver, Rob Harmon, who caught 31 passes for 464 yards and nine touchdowns.
But whoever wins the job has a stable of skilled junior receivers to throw to including Baily Stewart (8 catches, 216 yards, TD), Lucas Koopman (4 catches, 49 yards), and Brennan Kent (6 catches, 190 yards, TD).
The line also will be deep and strong with three returning seniors who logged significant time. They include Ryan Kuper, Clay Liening and Braydon Watts.
Koopman will move from the outside to the inside, Short said, while Tyler Malone and Watts (28 tackles, 2 interceptions) fill in on the outside.
The Cougars bring a wealth of experience to the secondary as well. Kent, Stewart, Dalton Wise, and Ben Rackers will get time at the corners, while Nunn and Trevor Kohrmann fill in the safety positions.
— Todd Eschman
at Mater Dei
at Red Bud