Senior-Laden Knights Ready for Big Season
Mike Hammett - August 26, 2013 6:28 pm
Sacred Heart ended its season Saturday night in the 3A Marion substate championship game with a 46-36 loss to top-seeded and top-ranked Hesston.
Early in Bruce Graber’s tenure at Sacred Heart, the Knights had few upperclassmen and had to rely on the play of sophomores and freshmen.
In Graber’s first season, the Knights had just four seniors. The following year, there were five seniors. Last season, the Knights featured 10 seniors. This year, Graber’s fourth at Sacred Heart, the Knights will have 19 seniors.
“That number, for a school our size, that’s unusual to have that many kids,” Graber said. “A lot of those guys have been playing for three years. We’ve got a good corps of kids back. We lost some very outstanding young men, outstanding players. But, you do that every year, and you’ve got to go back to the drawing board and line up and play again.”
The Knights return five offensive starters and eight defensive starters from last year’s team.
Sacred Heart’s offense will revolve around third-year starting quarterback Nick Wuthnow. Wuthow accounted for over 2,000 yards last year while throwing 18 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He was named first-team All-NCAA at quarterback.
“Obviously expectations are very high with him,” Graber said. “That goes with being a quarterback at Sacred Heart. People expect a lot of things from you. If you go back and look, they’ve had a bunch of great ones here. Hopefully, he comes back and makes some more improvement, as the rest of our senior crew.”
With 19 seniors, Graber is looking to them to lead the team.
“I think they’ll do a good job with leadership,” Graber said. “I really challenged these guys this summer. They’re great young men, they’re just not vocal. They hang real tight with each other. But really that was an area we needed to step up in this fall, in verbal leadership and not just showing the younger ones how to do it, but being very much encouraging and vocal with them as well.”
To help out Wuthnow, the Knights have experience on the offensive line. Elijah Walters and Drew Gormley return at the tackles, while Austin Kack is back at center. In addition, the Knights will utilize both Tate Richards and Austin Palen as tight ends.
Defensively, the Knights have some experience back, but Graber says they will change their style of play.
“We’re not going to be quite as aggressive,” Graber said. “We want to try and cover up our linebackers as much as they can, and let them go make every play that they can make.”
Trevor Webb, Josh Dolan and Clayton Wetter all return at linebacker for the Knights. Kane Comfort and Tymony Bonilla will handle the cornerback positions, while Wuthnow, Justin McCartney and Kyler Stover will see time at safety. Palen will also see time on the defensive line. Graber will decide later who else will start on the defensive line.
“If we can make sure we’re really solid inside, get a couple guys down inside that will play the way we want them to play, I think we have a chance to be pretty good defensively,” Graber said.
The Knights open the season at Hutchinson Trinity on Friday, September 6. The Knights have a tough schedule which includes another non-league game against Sedgwick, before entering league play against Beloit before getting out of September.
“It’s going to be brutal early,” Graber said. “That’s what we expect with Sacred Heart tradition. That’s the way you get better, is playing good people.”
All Sacred Heart games will be broadcast on Classic Hits 104.9, with pregame coverage at 6:50 and kickoff at 7. The games will be streamed online at ksal.com, by clicking on the Classic Hits 104.9 link under the “On-Air” menu. The Knights will also be featured on “Inside High School Football,” airing on Friday nights from 6pm to 6:50 on SportsRadio 1150 KSAL and online at ksal.com.