For Hickman football coach Gregg Nesbitt, it’s always a challenge preparing for a season opener, especially against an opponent he has never faced.
That is his task leading up to a 7 p.m. start against Lee’s Summit North at home tonight.
“We don’t know a whole lot about Lee’s Summit North,” Nesbitt said. “It certainly presents a unique problem, trying to get ready for them.”
Along with the lack of history between the Kewpies and the Broncos, the game film from the Broncos’ scrimmage Aug. 27 reveals little about their strategy.
“I’m sure they played close to the vest (during their scrimmage),” Nesbitt said. “We’ve got to be able to adjust to whatever wrinkles or different styles of football than what we’ve seen (on film).”
The Broncos struggled last season with a 1-9 record, but Nesbitt said that is something his coaching staff isn’t considering.
“Coach (Harold) Wambsgans has won state championships in both the state of Kansas and the state of Missouri,” Nesbitt said. “He’s a hall-of-fame coach, who has been doing it for 40-some years. Last year was an aberration.”
Lee’s Summit North returns 26 seniors including five running backs who received playing time last season. The Kewpies will line up against an option offense that will feature more than one of those backs and that will try to control the clock.
“(An option offense) forces you to play assignment football. We’ve been working on option defense for the last two-and-a-half weeks,” Nesbitt said. “It’s something we’re going to see, not only this week, but against four opponents that we know of this season.”
Senior Luke Harper, who had 68 tackles last year on the defensive line, said a main focus for the defense will be senior running back Octavious Thomas.
“He’s really impressive to see on film,” Harper said. “Our defense is really focused on just taking away that element of their game. That seems to be their focal point, running through (Thomas).”
Wambsgans said that though his team has traditionally been a run-oriented offense, he is looking for senior quarterback Chris Cahill to lead a stronger passing attack this season.
“We feel Cahill will do a better job of throwing the ball, and we’re looking to throw the ball more,” Wambsgans said. “Our passing is a controlled passing game.”
Offensively, the Kewpies enter tonight’s game with some uncertainty.
“We don’t really know if they switched defenses,” Nesbitt said. “It’s certainly cut our offensive practice time in half. We’re trying to keep it basic and simple for our offense.”
Nesbitt said he wants to specifically key on turnovers and special teams for the opener.
“We were fortunate the other day that we didn’t turn the ball over in the jamboree, so we’re not hitting any panic button,” Nesbitt said. “Special teams is something we’ve paid a lot of attention to (this week), so we expect our special forces to play well.”