Our High School Football Preview Tour continues to roll on.
The Meridian Media sports staff is previewing the 2021 season, venturing to different parts of central Kansas.
The latest stop was in Brookville, home to the Ell-Saline Cardinals.
The Joe Roche era started off well in 2020. The Cardinals outscored Marion and Sacred Heart 62-0 in the first two games of the season. Then the Cardinals had a rough patch, dropping five consecutive games.
That final loss at Smith Center during the losing skid opened the eyes of head coach Joe Roche and the players. Ell-Saline competed despite the indication of the final score. That realization led to a postseason win at Elkhart in the opening round of the Class 1A state playoffs. Even a 34-10 loss at Smith Center to close the season didn’t feel that bad because of the growth late in the year.
The Cardinals will look to use last season’s finish as a springboard for success in 2021. Some pieces are gone, but a good chunk of the roster is back.
Ell-Saline uses the spread option to move the football. Having experience up front will make it easier on new skill position pieces. Seniors Jonathan Calzada-Villa, Noah Carrazco, and Kayden Goddard all have log starts over the years. Coach Roche believes games are won in the trenches and this is a group he trusts to do the job.
There will be a new quarterback under center for the Cardinals. Junior Kade Wilson hopes to be the guy, but whoever wins the job will have targets. Seniors Taegan Bradley and Gabe Roche will be the main pass catchers. Sophomore Joe Heischl has speed and senior tight end Garret Phelps has length at 6’4″.
Junior Obed Ruiz and sophomore Ryder Dent are set to carry the ball for the Cardinals. Ruiz is the returning leading rusher, gaining 277 yards and recording two touchdowns in 2020. Dent worked hard in the weight room and will be ready to power the rushing attack.
Many of those names form the defensive side of the ball for the Cardinals. Bradley and Heischl will lead the secondary unit. Coach Roche thinks the linebacker group will be the heartbeat of the defense, led by Goddard, Wilson, and Dent. Calzada-Villa and Phelps will be the main guys in the trenches.
Coach Roche already sees differences from year one to year two. Although a few seniors have moved on, coach Roche is excited about the guys he has back. The 2021 schedule will be tough, but the Cardinals want to take a step forward toward a winning record.
2021 Ell-Saline Cardinals Football Schedule (all kickoff times slated for 7 pm w/games on FM 104.9 & ksal.com):
Sept. 3 – Marion
*Sept. 10 – Sacred Heart
*Sept. 17 – at Oakley
*Sept. 24 – Plainville
Oct. 1 – at Sedgwick
*Oct. 8 – at Inman
*Oct. 15 – Smith Center
*Oct. 22 – at Ellinwood
Oct. 29 – PLAYOFFS
*Denotes 1A District 3 game
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 (on Aug. 26)
Day 10: Salina South Cougars (on Aug. 27)
Day 10: Salina Central Mustangs (on Aug. 27)