It’s the final day of our High School Football Preview Tour.
The Meridian Media sports staff is previewing the 2021 season, venturing to different parts of central Kansas.
The last stop was in Salina, home to the Salina Central Mustangs.
Last fall was, well, frustrating to say the least for Salina Central. On the surface, the 1-8 record doesn’t tell the full story. The Mustangs had leads in half of their defeats – two that were by 21 points. Four of their losses were by six points or fewer. And Central’s lone win came against Arkansas City, a squad that made an epic postseason run to the Class 4A state championship.
A befuddling campaign to say the least. However, it showed that the Mustangs have plenty of talent, and now more fuel is in the fire. Coach Mark Sandbo is ready for his fourth season as head coach with 22 returning lettermen.
Parker Kavanagh will lead the offense in his senior campaign. Kavanagh threw for 1,709 yards and 13 touchdowns. He completed 55 percent of his passes, but he expects to increase that number and others while trimming down from the 14 interceptions.
All but one rushing yard returns for Central. That includes Kavanagh, who coach Sandbo plans on using a bit more in the rushing attack. The two main guys – senior Micah Moore and junior Kenyon McMillan. Moore, AVCTL-II second team pick, led the Mustangs with 590 yards and eight touchdowns. The “thunder” of the offense is a bit lighter this season, making him one to watch in the AVCTL-II. McMillan logged 443 rushing yards and four touchdowns in 2021. The “lightning” hopes to make a solid jump.
The Mustangs will have plenty of guys with experience in running routes. Central did lose EZ Jackson and Dakota Hogan, but three starters are back. All-league second teamer Logan Losey will lead the way. The senior led the Mustangs with 458 yards and four touchdowns. Classmate Hayden Vidrickson tied Losey for the team high in TD’s, pulling down 24 catches for 288 yards. Senior Jaxon Kolzow will be a threat as well.
The offensive line took a hit, graduating Kansas football walk-on Jake Eisenhauer and Butler CC tackle Matthew Glen. Both those guys made all-league and will be tough to replace. Still, the cupboard is far from bare. Senior Angel Luna will be the main anchor up front. Juniors Mason Clark and Kaleb Marshall received valuable playing time in 2020. Sabian Mills returns for his senior campaign and he’s looking to make an impact. Big Mykell Williams didn’t go out for football last year, but he’ll be one to watch in 2021.
Defensively, the linebackers will be the heartbeat. Brooks Burgoon graduated, but three other starters are back – seniors Nick Clayton and Kayson Graham (AVCTL-II HM) and junior Brooks Richardson (AVCTL-II HM). That trio led led the Mustangs in tackles. Richardson had the top amount with 75 tackles. Clayton was second with 73 stops. And Graham finished with 64 tackles.
The secondary will miss Hogan and Mac Hemmer, but Kolzow looks to be the leader. The AVCTL-II pick played in six games and racked up 32 tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble, and a whopping six interceptions. Senior Mason Gary stood out in 2020 and he plans on increasing his production this fall.
Central’s top defensive lineman is gone in Rafael Serrano. The current Kansas Wesleyan Coyote was fourth on the team in tackles with 63. He led the Mustangs with 12 tackles for loss and three sacks. Big shoes to fill, but seniors Brayden McKnight, Calvin Hemmer, and Mills all seem up for the task.
Salina Central saw the difference between winning and losing a season ago. The Mustangs were inches away from a five-win season. If they learn from self-inflicted wounds, they will turn some heads in 2021.
2021 Salina Central Mustangs Football Schedule (all kickoff times slated for 7 pm w/games on 1150 KSAL & ksal.com):
Sept. 3 – at Campus
Sept. 10 – Eisenhower
Sept. 17 – Andover
Sept. 24 – at Valley Center
Oct. 1 – at Ark City
Oct. 8 – Andover Central
Oct. 15 – Goddard
Oct. 22 – at Salina South (game at Salina Stadium)
Oct. 29 – 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