Our High School Football Preview Tour is coming to a close.
The Rocking M Media sports staff is previewing the 2020 season, venturing to different parts of central Kansas.
The latest stop was at Salina Central, home to the Mustangs.
For the second consecutive season, the Mustangs registered a winning record, going 5-4 after a 7-3 campaign in 2018. Salina Central won five of its last six games heading into the postseason, only to fall to Andover 28-7.
Head coach Mark Sandbo feels comfortable embarking on his third year with the Mustangs, but this season is filled with different challenges. On top of dealing with the current pandemic, Salina Central will deal with a slew of new opponents, making the transition to the AVCTL Division II. However, that doesn’t mean Central won’t be competitive.
Another Kavanagh will man the quarterback spot. Junior Parker Kavanagh replaces his older brother, Jackson, who’s now at Washburn following his role of being a starter the last couple seasons. Parker saw action at quarterback in five games in 2019, completing 37 passes for 406 yards and two touchdowns. The most notable appearance was on the road against Hays, taking over for Jackson after he suffered an injury.
Central’s rushing attack might have the biggest hurdle to overcome, returning just 13 yards from a team that ran for 917 in 2019. Graduate Cooper Chard accounted for 664 of those yards and averaged 5.2 yards per carry. The Mustangs’ answer will feature “thunder and lightning.” The thunder is junior Micah Moore. The 205-pound tailback is a physical runner. Then there’s lightning in sophomore Kenyon McMillan, who might be one of the fastest guys on the team.
Coach Sandbo’s offense always puts a heavy emphasis on pass catchers. Central lost its top one in Logan Heigele, who accumulated 815 yards and nine touchdowns. Tight end Quinton Stewart is now at Oklahoma State following his last season. But yet, coach Sandbo believes this year’s group could be even better than last season.
Senior Ezavyar “EZ” Jackson showed flashes of being a game changer in his first season with the Mustangs after transferring from Texas. Jackson will look to build on last year’s 158 yards and three touchdowns. Junior Logan Losey made just four catches a season ago, but looks impressive. Adding depth will be juniors Jaxon Kolzow and Hayden Vidricksen while senior Dakota Hogan will be sprinkled into the offense from time to time.
The offensive line will have to replace an exceptional trio in Houston Griffitts, Kobe Saunders, and Evan Bishop. Fortunately for Central, three experienced guys are back, headlined by senior Jake Eisenhauer, who checks in at 285 pounds. Matthew Glen will look to stand out in his senior season and junior Angel Luna was the top back up a season ago.
Defensively, Central gave up just 17.8 points per game in 2019. Seven senior starters have moved on, leaving plenty of spots up for grabs.
The biggest piece to replace is Gage Prester, who exploded as senior and now resides in Hays, Kan., home to Fort Hays State. Prester was a lockdown cornerback, a fill-in receiver/tailback, and a dynamic return specialist. Coach Sandbo trusts senior Dakota Hogan can fill Prester’s shoes. Joining Hogan in the secondary is junior Andin Price, who started at free safety last year as a sophomore. Sacred Heart senior transfer Mac Hemmer has already impacted the football team and will be a player to watch.
Three linebackers are gone in Daelan McKnight, Israel Torres and Cade Lopez. Brooks Burgoon is the lone starter back after making 38 tackles during his junior season. Junior Nick Clayton made strides in the offseason, putting him in the running for a starting position. Junior Kayson Graham will be in a similar spot. Three other guys will battle for the remaining spot on the field in junior Calvin Hemmer, and sophomores Brooks Richardson and Dawson Hogan.
The defensive line unit is missing Stewart and Talus Price, but Rafael Serrano is back for his senior campaign. Junior Sabian Mills replaces Price at the nose guard position. Mills is a versatile player, giving coach Sandbo some flexibility.
While Salina Central took a step back in the overall record department, the Mustangs feel confident they can continue to build this program to where it was 20 years ago.
2020 schedule for Salina Central Mustangs (all kickoff times slated for 7 pm w/games on 1150 KSAL & ksal.com):
Sept. 4 – Campus
Sept. 11 – at Eisenhower
Sept. 18 – at Andover
Sept. 25 – Valley Center
Oct. 2 – Arkansas City
Oct. 9 – at Andover Central
Oct. 16 – at Goddard
Oct. 23 – Salina South
Oct. 30 – PLAYOFFS
Day 1: Abilene Cowboys
Day 2: Bennington Bulldogs
Day 3: Ellsworth Bearcats
Day 4: Solomon Gorillas
Day 5: Smoky Valley Vikings
Day 6: Minneapolis Lions
Day 7: Southeast of Saline Trojans
Day 8: Ell-Saline Cardinals
Day 9: Sacred Heart Knights
Day 10: Salina South Cougars
Day 10: Salina Central Mustangs