Prep Football

Core group ready to help Eagles soar

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 18, 2019 12:01 am

EDINA, Mo. -- A relatively young group was beginning to find its rhythm midway through last season when the Knox County football team scored 50 or more points in back-to-back weeks to improve to 4-2.

The Eagles scored just one touchdown the next four weeks.

A rash of injuries sidelined several players, including quarterback Conner Hayes, and brought the offense to a standstill. No one associated with the Knox County program wants to endure that again, but they are better equipped to handle it.

It's because they have cultivated some depth.

"Since our first camp back in May, you can just see our core group is solid," Eagles coach Bruce Vannoy said. "I would argue it is one of the better core groups that we've had here in a long time. You're always one injury away from an issue, but this core group makes you believe we can survive anything.

"I'll take that experience and that core group every year. I'm super excited about that."

A good core needs a good anchor, something four returning offensive linemen provide.

Robert Mauck, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound physical presence, is the lone senior in the group, and senior Noah Hall, a 6-1, 250-pounder, is the newcomer, but they all have the ability to move with solid footwork and quickness.

"Athletically and size combined, it's probably one of the top groups we've had since I've been here," said Vannoy, who is in his third season as head coach and 12th overall on staff. "Better yet, they've all played and they're really meshing together."

It's showing on the field and on film.

Friday, the Eagles watched a breakdown of their practice drills and a very noticeable thing jumped out.

"We're not missing assignments," Vannoy said. "That puts us ahead of the schedule. We're working on fixing the type of steps and the type of blocks they're making, not just working on who to go to."

They will need to protect Hayes and help the Eagles develop more balance.

Knox County averaged 192.7 yards rushing and just 14 yards passing per game last season. Hayes, a junior, was primarily a runner last season and had to get comfortable throwing the ball to the likes of Coltin Morrow and Branson Miller.

Trent Klocke and Kegan Hamlin -- both seniors -- complement Hayes in the backfield.

"We focused on throwing the ball throughout the offseason," Vannoy said. "Conner's physical maturity alone helps with that. He's growing up and he's worked hard in the weight room. We have to throw a little more to be competitive.

"Last year, teams knew we couldn't throw, so they stacked the box on us and there was nothing we could do about it."

Many of the key cogs offensively will play both ways, with Mauck anchoring the defense as an all-conference linebacker. It's still that core group Vannoy expects to rely on to give the Eagles a better chance at stopping opponents.

"Our guys know they have that experience and determination that is the foundation for success," Vannoy said. "They want to win and are willing to put in the time to get better to give themselves a chance to do something special."

Inside the huddle

Who: Knox County Eagles

2018 record: 4-6 (4-4 Lewis & Clark Conference).

Coach: Bruce Vannoy (9-11 at Knox County, third season).

Players to watch: OL/LB Robert Mauck, 6-1, 235, Sr.; QB/DB Conner Hayes, 5-9, 165, Jr.; RB/LB Trent Klocke, 6-2, 168, Sr.; WR/DB Coltin Morrow, 5-10, 147, Jr.

Schedule: Aug. 31 vs. Schuyler County; Sept. 6 at Marceline; Sept. 13 vs. Westran; Sept. 20 at Paris; Sept. 27 vs. Harrisburg; Oct. 4 at Salisbury; Oct. 11 vs. Scotland County; Oct. 18 vs. Highland; Oct. 25 at Fayette.