The Abilene Cowboy Football program will have a whole new look in 2020. Hopes are high with a brand new coach and a new football complex. The Cowboys are coming off an 0-9 season in 2019. It was their first winless season since 1967. Brad Nicks takes over for Steve Simpson. Simpson had coached Abilene since 2014. He helped guide the Cowboys to the quarterfinals in 2015. The last three years though, the program had fallen on hard times with just six total victories. Simpson is now teaching P.E. at Chapman Middle School and is the Head Coach for their middle school football teams and High School track teams.
Nicks spent the last 20 years as an assistant football coach at Shawnee Heights in Tecumseh, Kansas. He is a 1994 graduate of Rose Hill High School. He went on to Cloud County College where he ran track. He would then complete his Bachelor’s degree at Emporia State University and earned his Master’s Degree at Baker University.
Nicks student taught at Topeka Seaman before taking a job at Shawnee Heights. During his time with the Thunderbirds, Nicks spent time as both the offensive and defensive coordinator. His first three years were under Frank Cross and the last 17 years under Jason Swift. Coach Nicks was part of a lot of success at Shawnee Heights. The team made the playoffs 14 of the last 17 years when districts were still used. During the last four years with the current postseason format, the Thunderbirds won their opening round playoff game in three of those seasons. Shawnee Heights greatest success during Nicks’s time as an assistant coach came in 2014. That season the Thunderbirds made it all the way to the semifinals where they fell to St. Thomas Aquinas by one point. Last fall, Shawnee Heights went 5-5 and defeated Lansing 7-0 in the opening round. In the second round the Thunderbirds fell 31-0 at DeSoto.
Coach Nicks has shown that he can build a program. He was the track coach at Shawnee Heights the last 17 seasons. The program only had around 45 students when he took over and grew to over 100 students by the time he left. He guided three teams to state titles. The Thunderbird boys won titles in 2007 and 2015 and the girls in 2009.
Nicks will try to get the Abilene Football program back on track. The 2019 Cowboy team struggled in all facets of the game. The Abilene offense managed just under 8 points per game while the defense surrendered just over 36. Abilene graduated 12 Seniors off of last year’s team which is deceiving. Several of last year’s Senior class had not played all four years.
The cupboard is not bare for Coach Nicks. Abilene returns one of the best athletes in the NCKL in Kaleb Becker, a 6’4” 200 Junior. Becker was a 1st team All-League Punter last year. He was very versatile on offense for the Cowboys in 2019 as he had 12 receptions for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also threw for a touchdown as he saw time at quarterback. Becker played outside linebacker on defense where he registered 30 tackles and 2 blocked kicks.
The line will be anchored by 6’1” 225 Senior Karsen Loader. Loader was named Honorable Mention NCKL offensive lineman and was an All-League defensive lineman for the Cowboys. Last year he registered 66 tackles , leading the team in tackles. Abilene will also welcome back 5’11” 200 Senior Robbie Keener. Keener saw time at fullback last year but made his biggest impact on defense at middle linebacker where he totaled 65 tackles.
Not only will the Cowboys have a new head coach but Mammoth Construction is currently renovating their stadium . Cowboy Stadium was originally built in 1937. The grandstand and press box were torn down and will be rebuilt. Paul Dennis Field will also go from natural grass to field turf, and the track surrounding the filed will also be resurfaced. The scoreboard is a HD Video Board, the first of its kind in the state at a high school facility. They will also have LED lighting, improving visibility. The hope is that the facility will also be able to host events in the future to help generate revenue for the community. The project is all privately funded and currently supporters have the ability to buy a name brick that will be placed in the entrance to help fund the renovation project.
Abilene Cowboys on The General 1560 KABI
Fri. September 4 @ Clay Center 7:00pm
Fri. September 11 Concordia 7:00pm
Fri. September 18 Chapman 7:00pm
Sat. September 26 @ Christ Prep Academy 7:00pm
Fri. October 2 @ Hays 7:00pm
Fri. October 9 Ulysses 7:00pm
Fri. October 16 Augusta 7:00pm
Fri. October 23 @ Wamego 7:00pm
Fri. October 30 PLAYOFFS 7:00pm
Day 1: Abilene Cowboys
Day 2: Bennington Bulldogs (on Aug. 18)
Day 3: Ellsworth Bearcats (on Aug. 19)
Day 4: Solomon Gorillas (on Aug. 20)
Day 5: Smoky Valley Vikings (on Aug. 21)
Day 6: Minneapolis Lions (on Aug. 24)
Day 7: Southeast of Saline Trojans (on Aug. 25)
Day 8: Ell-Saline Cardinals (on Aug. 26)
Day 9: Sacred Heart Knights (on Aug. 27)
Day 10: Salina South Cougars (on Aug. 28)
Day 10: Salina Central Mustangs (on Aug. 28)