Both the St. John High School and Otis-Bison football teams had 1,000-yard rushers last season.
In fact, the Cougars had two.
The difference is that Otis-Bison returned one of theirs while Tigers leading rusher Pat Prescott graduated.
“(Dylan) Wissman is going to have to be a big key all year,” Otis-Bison head coach Travis Starr said. “I also think we’ve had a good line. Our running backs have had an offensive line to run behind for a couple years now.
“Dylan is a great all-around runner. He has the ability to make people miss, or he can outrun people.”
Wissman, who was a second-team All-Central Prairie League running back as a 1,200-yard rusher last season, may likely be the difference in Friday night’s season-opening game, starting at 7.
“We just have to stop their running game,” Tigers head coach Nick Garcia said. “Dylan Wissman is a heck of a runner.”
The Tigers run a spread offense that Otis-Bison does not see from many other teams on its schedule.
“We’ll prepare for St. John like we have in the past,” Starr said. “We need to prepare for a spread look. We don’t see a lot of spread, so we have to be ready.
“They have a lot of good receivers that are quick in open space. We have to be ready to keep up with them.”
Starr also said that the number of players out for St. John could be an issue.
“We’re not going to be able to wear them down,” Starr said. “Heat’s going to be a factor, too. They have a lot of numbers, a lot of athletes.”
Garcia said that playing Otis-Bison is always a good way to prepare for district games.
“We want to do well in our district games and beyond,” Garcia said. “This team has been to the postseason over and over again, so we have our work cut out for us.”
• Victoria at Macksville
Macksville’s new-look offense will be trying to keep up with Victoria, which returned a majority of its backfield from last year’s team.
One thing Macksville head coach Jeff Kuckelman said he expects from the Knights is hard-hitting football.
“We’re looking to be ready for a physical game,” Kuckelman said. “They are going to come ready to play, and come to hit you. I think the kids realize one of the hardest hitting teams that we play.
“So we’re trying to be physical in practice.”
Victoria runs an option-based offense.
“It’s a real basic offense,” Kuckelman said. “The key for us is to be ready for everyone to hit their assignments. They’re going to run right at us, and we have to be ready.”
While the Knights returned many of their players from their backfield, the same can’t be said for the offensive line.
“They lost most of their line, but returned most of their backfield,” Kuckelman said. “They have a talented group back there, and they always seem to find lineman who are willing to come out and hit somebody.”
• Great Bend at Hoisington
In an attempt to bolster their late-season fortunes, the Hoisington Cardinals have beefed up an already tough regular-season schedule by adding Class 5A Great Bend for its season opener on Friday night at Elton Brown Field.
Hoisington plays defending 2A state runner-up La Crosse in Week 2, and also encounters 3A Scott City in district play.
Both the Cardinals and Great Bend return punishing defenses, with Hoisington returning eight starters from a 5-4 team last season and Great Bend returning seven on defense from a 4-4 team.
The Panthers’ running game, featuring quarterback Bryce Beck and running backs Josh Lopez and Jonathan Allende, could be the difference.
• Stafford at Central Plains
Central Plains finished 9-2 last year after a 52-6 loss in an Eight-Man Division-I state playoff semifinal game against Montezuma-South Gray.
Stafford finished 2-6 with wins against Central Christian of Hutchinson and Heart of the Plains League opponent Bucklin.
at Thomas More Prep Marian
Last season, the showdown between Ellinwood and TMP Marian ended with a 24-6 win for the Monarchs.
That was last year, though. Eagles head coach Dusty Beam has said he has seen marked improvement from a season that saw Ellinwood finish 2-7.
The Monarchs finished last season 5-4.
• Ellsworth at Larned
The season opener will be the first test for Larned first-year head coach AB Stokes, who took over for Al Troyer during the offseason.
Ellsworth finished with a 6-4 record after falling out of the 3A playoff bracket last year.
The Indians finished 0-9 last season, but figures to be a completely new team under the direction of their new coach.