Southeast of Saline Football Season Preview

The Southeast of Saline Trojans have become synonymous with excellence in Kansas High School Football, posting a 31-3 record over the last three years, but Head Coach Mitch Gebhardt says it has to do with a lot more than just football on Friday nights.


“It starts with a lot of things. Families out here are really, really good, and supportive to the football team, and the kids see that,” said Gebhardt on 1150 KSAL Wednesday afternoon. “They buy into what you’re doing. The coaches put in so much time, it’s unbelievable, and spend time with kids, and I think that’s such a huge thing that those guys put their time in. They’re out here for everything, and we go to camps and everything else, and everybody’s there, and they know what we need to do to get things done.”


The Trojans have made appearances in the State Semifinals in each of the last two years, but following the departure of a deep and skilled senior class, they’ll have much to prove this fall. Southeast will return just four starters on each side of the ball, which might make some coaches uneasy. Not Gebhardt. 


“We’ve kind of been that way for three or four years now. We graduate an awfully good class of kids, and there’s always a lot of question marks when you graduate those kids that eat up a lot of downs for a few years like that,” said Gebhardt. “I really feel like we have a good group of leaders back for us, that put in a lot of downs. We played twelve games last year, so we got a lot of practices in. So kids that were younger got to go through those practices. I think that’s a big boost to a football program when that happens”


Fortunately, for Coach Gebhardt, and fans in Gypsum, they’ll have a few key returners that will make this fall just a little smoother for the underclassmen that will elevate into larger roles. 


First, there’s Daniel Kejr, an All-State Honorable Mention Safety on Defense for the Trojans, tallying 64 tackles and two interceptions last season. But this year, he’ll also get the keys to the offense as the starting Quarterback.


“He’s been in the program for four years and he had a great freshman and sophomore year as a JV quarterback,” said Gebhardt of his signal caller for this season. “We know what we’re getting with Daniel. He’s a hard worker, one of the hardest workers on the team, and we know what we’re getting in leadership with him and everything else, so we’re excited that Dan gets a chance here, and we’re excited about what he can do.”


Then, there’s Josiah Monday, another All-State Honorable Mention on the Defensive Line. Monday registered 46 tackles and four sacks last year and will anchor Southeast up front. 


In addition, SES will get Nathan Weller back to full strength. The First Team All-NCAA Offensive Lineman tore his ACL towards the end of 2022, and managed to play through the remainder of the season on the injured knee. 


“On the offensive line, he had a great summer. He’s got himself rehabbed and he’s ready to go and I’m excited for what he can do, ” exclaimed Gebhardt. “He’s a tough kid, and I’m excited. We didn’t know when he’d be released and he got released about a week ago, so we’re excited for him!”


The changing of the guard within the depth chart will certainly be a story to monitor, but the sustained success at Southeast of Saline over the last few seasons, and overall under the direction of Mitch Gebhardt (93-38 overall record in 13 seasons) should be enough evidence that the Trojans are a force on the football field until proven otherwise. 


They’ll start their quest into 2023 with plenty of tests, facing Rock Creek in week one, a team which reached the 3A Quarterfinals last fall. They’ll follow it up with a dual against nearby Beloit, which also appeared in a State Quarterfinal last season, just in the 2A bracket. 


“I like the way our schedule sets up. We’re playing some awfully good teams.” said Gebhardt of the looming challenges this fall. “You’ve got to take every week one at a time, and we’re looking at Rock Creek right now, but we understand what our schedule looks like and we can’t have a day off, we can’t not lift weights in the weight room, we can’t do those things because our schedule is good and if we don’t do what we need to, it could get ugly for us.”


Coach Gebhardt certainly understands the tasks his team will face this season, and that there is still a lot of work to be done, but during his interview on KSAL it was easy to see his confidence in the team he has, and put it simply when stating what he needed to know to be shown that his team is ready for the challenge.


“Just understanding what we do as a team. I think that’s a big deal. Understanding that you don’t have to make every play. You’ve got to rely on the guy next to you. We’ve built a lot of things on that, and understanding that ‘I have to take care of my business, and when I do that, my teammates will also.” 


The Trojans, despite their roster turnover, will still be a top 10 team by most media outlets to begin the fall, and will still be without a doubt, one of the giants of their classification, and fans will be able to stay up to speed on all things Trojan Football this fall as they take on their many challenges as Coach Gebhardt will make regular appearances on 1150 KSAL and 106.7 FM.