It will be year 2 for the Brad Nicks era for the Abilene Cowboy football program this fall. Abilene went 0-6 last season under the then first year head coach, and was unable to play three games because of Covid. Despite only being his second year as Head Coach, Nicks brings plenty of experience to the table. He spent 20 years at Shawnee Heights as a coach and teacher prior to coming to Abilene. He helped guide the Thunderbirds to the playoffs in 14 of the 16 years that districts were still used. Their greatest success came in 2014 when the team reached the semifinals. Nicks is a program builder, as the head coach of the track team, he coached Heights boy’s program to State Championships in 2007 and 2015 and the girl’s program to a State Championship in 2009.
Abilene is in need of Nick’s program building skills. Abilene has currently lost 15 games in a row. Their last victory came on October 19, 2018 in the regular season finale against Ulysses. They played the Tigers to open the playoffs that same season and fell 28-0 which started the losing streak. Abilene has struggled since 2017, a year in which they went 2-7, 4-5 in 2018, 0-9 in 2019 and went winless again last season. This is a position the Abilene Cowboys are not used to being in. During the era of Cody Whitehair, Curry Sexton, Collin Sexton, Harley Hazlet and Parker O’Neal that spanned from 2008-2017, the Cowboys averaged over 7 wins a season.
Abilene has reason for optimism with a Senior class led by Kaleb Becker. The 6’4” 200 standout, is the only returning player, who earned All-NCKL recognition last season. He earned honorable mention for his work in the Cowboy secondary. On offense last year, Becker played quarterback but this season he will line up at receiver. He is considered one of the best athletes in the league and was All-NCKL in basketball where he averaged 15.8 points and 7 rebounds per game.
Throwing the football this season to Becker and the rest of the receiving core will be Stocton Timbrook. The 6’, 185 Sophomore quarterback is a winner. He made an impression in his Freshman debut against McPherson in the playoffs. Abilene lost the game 78-14 but Timbrook entered the game in the 4th quarter and engineered two scoring drives, for an offense that had only had scored 12 points through 5 games in the regular season. He finished 11-17 for 141 yards and a touchdown in the loss. He was also part of a Freshman basketball team last season that went undefeated and has won 48 straight games from 7th through 9th grades.
The future looks bright for Cowboy football. This year’s Freshman class lost just 3 combined games in middle school over the last 2 years. The 8th grade team won the NCKL last year, for the first time since 2013.
Abilene once again will not be able to play a full league schedule because most of the NCKL is competing in Class 3A, and Abilene is 4A. Last year Concordia had the best league record at 4-1, Wamego was 3-1 and Marysville was 2-1. The Red Raiders had the best post-season success in the league last year. Wamego went 6-5 overall and won 2 games in the 4A playoffs. They lost to eventual runner-up Ark City 21-20 in the 3rd round. Abilene will wrap up the regular season with the Red Raiders on October 22, who is coached by former Salina South standout Weston Moody.
Another reason to be excited about watching Cowboy Football is the newly renovated Cowboy Stadium and Paul Dennis Field. They added a jumbotron, field-turf, new lights, bleachers and press box last year. New this year, are renovations to the north side of the stadium grounds. A new structure will have locker rooms for both the Abilene football team and a separate locker room for the cheerleaders. The visitor’s locker room will be located in a new building in the southwest corner of the grounds. There will also be a suite area to watch the game and hold special events. On the west side of the new north building there will also be a ticket booth and spirit wear shop. Finally on the northwest corner of the grounds there will be new restrooms for the public where the home locker room used to be. Everything is expected to be fully operational this year for the opener against Clay Center on September 3.
2021 Abilene Cowboy Football Schedule (all kickoff times slated for 7 pm w/games on The General 1560 KABI & ksal.com):
Sept. 3 – Clay Center
Sept. 10 – at Concordia
Sept. 17 – at Chapman
Sept. 24 – Christ Prep
Oct. 1 – Hays
Oct. 8 – at Ulysses
Oct. 15 – at Augusta
Oct. 22 – Wamego
Oct. 29 – PLAYOFFS
Day 1: Abilene Cowboys
Day 2: Bennington Bulldogs (on Aug. 17)
Day 3: Ellsworth Bearcats (on Aug. 18)
Day 4: Solomon Gorillas (on Aug. 19)
Day 5: Smoky Valley Vikings (on Aug. 20)
Day 6: Minneapolis Lions (on Aug. 23)
Day 7: Southeast of Saline Trojans (on Aug. 24)
Day 8: Ell-Saline Cardinals (on Aug. 25)
Day 9: Sacred Heart Knights (on Aug. 26)
Day 10: Salina South Cougars (on Aug. 27)
Day 10: Salina Central Mustangs (on Aug. 27)