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B4 The Smithville Herald

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Football: 2013 Season Preview

Big things in store on gridiron Warriors hope to replicate physical style of play By Andy Meyer Smithville football coach Greg Smith isn’t one to mess with success. And that’s precisely why the team will likely be following a tried-andtrue blueprint that nearly resulted in a district title last season. The Warriors will build around a hard-hitting defense and a power-running attack that brought so much success a year ago, when they finished with their most wins in a season since 2008. Despite losing some top players to graduation, Smith thinks his team will be able to build on last year’s fantastic finish behind physical play on both sides of the ball. “For the most part, we’re going to do what we do and try to play good, fundamental football,” Smith said. “We’re going to try to run the ball and throw the ball a little bit and play good, solid defense.” That simple strategy paid dividends last year, as the Warriors hit their stride just in time for a postseason run that included victories against higher-ranked opponents in the district tournament. Ultimately, they came up one touchdown short of a Class 4 District 8 title against Platte County, but the late-season run set the stage for a promising campaign this year. Senior lineman Chase Thomas was a big part of the team’s success last year, and part of a senior class that is eager to keep on improving. “We have most of our starters returning on defense, and a lot on offense,” Thomas said. “So it feels like we’re just going to continue from where we left off a season ago and go from there.” Of course, if Smithville hopes to recapture that style of play, it all starts in the trenches with the offensive and defensive lines. And those areas should be strong points for the Warriors. In addition to Thomas, seniors Mason Smith (first team all-MEC) and Nathan Vitek provide excellent size and physicality on both sides of the ball, while junior Jacob Snyder and sophomore Cody Meek are likely to see plenty of playing time, as well.

File Photo/The Smithville Herald

Smithville senior Nolan Gromacki will be one of the Warriors’ key players on both sides of the ball this year as a linebacker and the primary running back. Smith and Thomas are three-year starters, and having so much experience has allowed the team to hit the ground running during the opening weeks of practice, according to Thomas. “It just makes everything go so much smoother,” he said. “Then you can help out the other kids instead of worrying about what you’re going to do. I was there, so I know how it feels. “And it definitely helps.” The same can be said for the linebacking corps, which has the potential to wreak havoc all year long. Seniors Scott Olson, Nolan Gromacki and Bailey Wilson all bring plenty of explosiveness and combined for nearly 250 tackles between them last year. Of course, the group must do without all-time leading tackler Joe Dominiak, but all three players have seen the field since their sophomores seasons and should make things difficult on opposing offenses. “It is a very strong linebacking corps,” Smith said. “They’ve got a lot of explosiveness, a lot of athletic ability, but also a lot of experience. That’s a key part of it, too. “They’ve seen a lot of football. They’ve played a lot of games, and that plays

into it as well.” After recording 10½ sacks last year, Gromacki looks to have an even bigger impact as he takes over as the team’s primary running back, replacing alltime leading rusher Zach Parmenter. Gromacki shifted out to tight end last year but returns to the backfield, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Smithville’s standout running backs of the past few years. “Since my freshman year, guys like Nick Nance and Zach Parmenter have been in front of me, and I’ve watched two of the best running backs we’ve ever had at Smithville,” Gromacki said. “And I’ve just kind of been waiting for my turn. I’ve always been eager to run the ball, and I’m really excited to carry the rock this year.” To add to the new-look backfield, there will be a new signal caller for the second consecutive year. After two weeks of practice, sophomore Mitchell Orr has emerged as the starting

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Luke Sachs and Connelly White, could also have an impact for the squad. Many of the starters at the skill positions will be firsttime starters, but Greg Smith said he there are still some position battles taking place leading up to the first week of the regular season. “There’s definitely an element of the unknown when it comes to some of those positions,” Smith said. “But we’ve got some kids who have been playing for three years now that we’re going to have to rely on to give us that leadership and give us the stability as we break in some new players.” Despite so many new

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quarterback ahead of three other candidates heading into the season. The competition was fierce between all four candidates, including Ethan Thomas, Cole Justice and Ryan Hollingsworth, but Greg Smith said it was a tough decision to make. “What’s impressed me is how the kids have improved,” Smith said. “Each one of those kids have improved over the course of the summer, and that’s what we want. So their level of play is raising with is a huge bonus for us.” Orr should have a plethora of targets to throw to in the team’s usual spread offense look, including Brad Duncan, Josh Lizar and Jackson Krull, among others. The secondary has a few holes to fill, as well, but safety Jonathan Cochrane (senior) and cornerback Quintin Mueller (junior) return as starters and lead a group of playmakers that should only improve as the year progresses. A multitude of juniors and sophomores, including

faces, the expectation level hasn’t diminished for the Warriors. After a fourth-place finish in the Midland Empire Conference, Smithville is hopeful of contending for another league crown. After all, many of the seniors were a big part of the conference championship team of 2011, and they believe they should be in the mix with the likes of Maryville and Savannah for another MEC title. “The history that we’ve had playing these conference schools for a while, we’ve always done well against them, and we feel pretty good going against a lot of the teams,” Gromacki said. Smithville could also be a major player in the Class 4 District 8 title chase, as well, after finishing second in one of the most competitive brackets in the entire state. The Warriors were one of the only six seeds in Missouri to make it to the district final, and Greg Smith said making it so close to a district championship instilled a drive and desire that has been evident in the offseason workouts. “I know that it was a factor in the offseason. There was a hunger there because of the way the season ended,” Smith said. “It was a bitter ending to a great season. But as you reflect back on it, there’s a lot of pride in the way we ended the season.” Keep in mind, it took Smithville a few weeks to really hit its stride and start playing its best football in the final weeks of the season. But after tasting so much success, Gromacki said he thinks some of that excitement and momentum will carry over into this year as the Warriors prepare for another big year. “We’re all ready to go,” Gromacki said. “We’ve been feeling good offensively, defensively, and we’re feeling good about this year.”

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