By Chris Heady
Spring dealt its share of shocks to the SM East football program — some expected, and one that hit players and boosters out of nowhere.
The school knew it would be losing talented cornerstone players like quarterback Jordan Darling, running back and defensive back Connor Rellihan and linebacker twin brothers Sam and David Stewart to graduation. What it didn’t know was that head coach Chip Sherman — the man who took a program that had been mired mediocrity from its inception in the 1950s and a few short years turned it into a contender — would abruptly depart for Olathe Northwest.
But the team’s new leaders showed this week that they’re ready to take the challenge of rebuilding the program head on — and hopefully keep the team’s momentum from the past few seasons alive and well.
Former Emporia High School head coach Dustin Delaney was named the Lancers’ new head coach in late May, and says he’s planning on bringing the high powered offense he ran there with him. The Lancers officially kicked off their 2013 campaign last week with a football camp, and Wednesday the team had their first varsity “practice”: a no-pads walk through of sorts. In these early sessions, Delaney has been highlighting the fundamentals, and working to get both new and returning players more familiar with his system. He’s also been putting an emphasis on weight lifting, something he said he would do during his first meeting with his players back in May.
“Take everything in there seriously,” he emplored the team before a trip to the weight room Wednesday.
Delaney says Lancer fans can probably expect to see a greater focus on the running game than in the past few years, a strategy he thinks benefits the passing game as well.
“We’re gonna run the ball a lot more than last year,” Delaney said. “They threw a lot last year but actually we [Emporia High School] had 22 touchdown throwing and I think East had 11.”
Incoming SM East senior Christian Blessen has taken over Darling’s duties and is running first-team offense for Delaney in practice, but the running back position appears to be up for grabs between a few players.
Though the positions and strategies have changed, the expectations for the Lancers, that went 8-2 last year, are not.
“We’re just trying to put in the basic offense right now,” said Delaney this week, also mentioning that the defense was looking strong.
The Lancers will hold their first scrimmage of the year against Blue Valley North is next Wednesday with more scrimmages planned for July.