The Bluebirds will seek to improve upon last season?s 2-7 overall record, and the key begins with defense, he said.
The Bluebirds return four defensive starters: senior linebacker Kellen Froese, senior defensive back Lucas Hiebert, sophomore linebacker Miguel Guerrero and sophomore defensive back Trevor Beisel.
At 5-feet, 9-inches and 220 pounds, Froese recorded 62 total tackles last season, 71?2 for loss. Beisel (5-7, 150) had 40 total tackles and two interceptions; Guerrero (5-7, 150) recorded 36 tackles and one kick return for a touchdown; and Hiebert (6-0, 150) contributed 26 tackles.
Additional returning letter-winners on defense include: junior lineman Luke Unruh (5-10, 275); junior linebacker Matt Regier (5-8, 150); sophomore lineman Kenny Hammond (6-1, 200); and sophomore back Josh Schmidt (5-6, 125).
?On the field, I believe our success this year will start with defense,? Hiebert said. ?We need to stop the run and prevent big plays. We need to use good technique and remain assignment-sound to put ourselves in position to make plays.?
Hiebert said the Blue?birds return a number of young defensive players from whom he expects to see ?big improvement.?
On offense, Goessel returns four starters: Froese and Guerrero at running back; senior lineman Connor Davis (6-0, 190); and junior quarterback Chase Flaming (5-9, 180).
Guerrero rushed for 624 yards last season and scored seven touchdowns; Froese contributed 459 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Flaming, meanwhile, threw for 574 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 385 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Additional letter-winners include Unruh (line), Regier (running back), Hammond (line) and Schmidt (quarterback).
Hiebert sees room for improvement on offense as well.
?Offensively, we need to find ways to run the ball consistently to sustain drives,? he said. ?Finding ways to create explosive plays will be important, too.
?Offensive priorities for us will be developing a more consistent passing game early in the season and getting better at sustaining drive blocks in the run game.?
Guerrero will serve as punter and kick returner.
New to the team this season is freshman Jordan Griffin, a 6-0, 175-pound tight end, running back and defensive lineman.
Hiebert said it will be important to establish positions, and some players may be required to learn new roles.
?Finding a way to get our best eight players on the field will be critical,? he said. ?Some players may need to learn new positions to give us the best chance to succeed.
?We also need to continue to develop team depth so we can rotate and get our starters off the field for some rest this year. Being fresh in the fourth quarter will be a priority for us.?
Hiebert?s team goals for the season include: building team chemistry, working hard and improving every day.
?Early in the season, it will be important for us to experience success and build momentum for district play,? he said. ?We need to continue to develop our mentality of superior effort and toughness so that we are able to overcome adversity.
?Ultimately, our goal is to qualify for the state playoffs, but we will not accomplish this without meeting many other smaller goals.?
Top teams to watch in the Wheat State League include Rural Vista, Solomon and Peabody-Burns.
?Like other eight-man teams, it will be important for us to avoid injuries and remain healthy if we are to experience success,? Hiebert said. ?Overall, we need to come together as a team, develop an attitude of toughness, and improve every day to reach our goals.?
Goessel will open the season Friday at Peabody-Burns. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The Bluebirds? home opener will be Sept. 12 against Rural Vista.