Our High School Football Preview Tour continues to roll on.
The Rocking M Media sports staff is previewing the 2019 season, venturing to different parts of central Kansas.
The latest stop was in Gypsum, Kan., home to the Southeast of Saline Trojans.
Southeast of Saline bounced back a season ago. Following four straight 7-3 campaigns, the Trojans dropped below .500 at 4-5 in 2017, but with a young squad. That youth turned into a battle-tested group that won the first four games of 2018.
Only one slip up took place in the regular season: a 32-6 defeat to Rossville. A second defeat seemed to be at Southeast’s doorstep when the Trojans saw Riley County, but they rallied from a 21-0 halftime deficit to knock off the Falcons 23-21.
In the Class 2A state playoffs, Southeast of Saline edged Nemaha Central 26-13, setting up another showdown with Riley County. The Falcons, the eventual state runner-ups, won 33-14, ending Southeast of Saline’s season at 8-2.
Plenty of skill returns for the Trojans, who bring back six offensive starters. Quarterback Jaxson Gebhardt leads the way after an impressive sophomore campaign. Gebhardt threw for 1,393 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for another 509 yards. His performance earned him first team all-league.
Classmates Tyler Breeding and Bryant Banks also were honored by the NCAA. Banks joined Gebhardt on the first team with Breeding earning a spot on the second team. Banks dealt with injuries off and on a season ago, but when he was on the gridiron, opponents keyed on him. In eight games, Banks rushed for 561 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns.
Breeding was threat at receiver, recording 23 catches for 431 yards and four scores. The versatile Breeding also made 43 tackles and four tackles for loss at linebacker.
Swiss Army knife Seth Ecklund is back for the Trojans. The senior took snaps at quarterback, tailback, receiver and linebacker in 2018. He threw for 189 yards and three touchdowns, ran for 232 yards with another three scores, and hauled in nine balls for 80 yards and a TD. Eli Harris is another name brought up by head coach Mitch Gebhardt.
Play in the trenches features a question mark, but the group has potential. Leading the charge is Sterling Harp. The junior played at guard a year ago, but he’ll switch to center for the Trojans this year. Southeast of Saline plans to rotate the big guys up front, keeping the unit fresh in games.
Coach Gebhardt mentioned 42 guys are on the roster for 2019 and the majority of the group attended summer activities every day. Southeast of Saline opens the season in Gypsum on Friday, September 6 against Sacred Heart. The Trojans face two more league opponents before seeing another tough district.
2019 schedule for Southeast of Saline Trojans (all kickoff times slated for 7 pm):
Aug. 30 – Preseason jamboree at Smoky Valley with Ell-Saline & Minneapolis
Sept. 6 – Sacred Heart
Sept. 13 – at Beloit
Sept. 20 – Russell
Sept. 27 – at St. Marys*
Oct. 4 – Rossville*
Oct. 11 – at Mission Valley*
Oct. 18 – Riley County*
Oct. 25 – at Council Grove*
Nov. 1 – PLAYOFFS
*2A District 4 Game
Day 1: Abilene Cowboys
Day 1: Ellsworth Bearcats
Day 3 on Monday: Minneapolis Lions
Day 4 on Tuesday: Smoky Valley Vikings & Sacred Heart Knights
Day 5: on Wednesday: Ell-Saline Cardinals & Solomon Gorillas
Day 6 on Thursday: Salina South Cougars & Bennington Bulldogs
Day 7 on Friday: Salina Central Mustangs