It’s been more than a year since the season opener gridiron game for the Chanute Blue Comets, but today is finally the day Chanute High School plays their first football game of the 2020 season.
Scheduled for 7 pm today at the Chanute Community Sports Complex, CHS will play Circle High School in the season opener for the third year in a row. Chanute has a two-game win streak the last two seasons against Circle, with the Blue Comets dominating 31-8 two years ago, and shutting out the Thunderbirds 24-0 last year.
Second-year CHS head football coach Clete Frazell said it’s important to get off to a good start, especially since last season’s good start when former kick returner and running back Briley Peavy returned a kick for a touchdown early on to get things started. The season eventually led to a 9-2 record and a trip in November to a state sectional matchup versus Paola.
“...It’s going to be really important again just to get off to a good start, and the kids will realize it’s a fresh year, with some different faces on each team and the score is 0-0 going in, and nobody is favored to win this game,” Frazell said.
Since June 1, the Blue Comets have been pumping iron and readying themselves for the start of the 2020 season, including conditioning, position-specific drills, and practicing plays on offense and defense. Through the process, Frazell said there has been ups and downs, but overall the team is where it needs to be for the start of the year.
The challenge, he said, will be to get his players to relax come the first game, as it is perfectly normal to get out of character and get a little too hyped about the situation. Frazell, however, noted that his players know exactly what they are doing, and they need to take a deep breath before assignments and the next play.
Every CHS player will be focused, and running backs fans can expect to see senior Ryker Donovan, junior Jackson Coombs and sophomore Ty Leedy. Donovan is the power back with athletic ability, while Coombs and Leedy will have a change-of-pace style when it comes to running the football.
Blocking and creating holes for the running backs will be the offensive line. At the center position is junior Tuker Davis, who started last year in the same spot. At either of the guard positions will be junior Nathan Cunningham, who has added some weight bolster that Blue Comet rushing attack that was so potent a year ago. Sophomore Bryan Jackett will likely be at the other guard position, as last year he played well versus Paola in the state sectional game as a freshman.
All-State senior All-SEK offensive tackle Brayden Dillow will lead and galvanize the offensive line attack. Also at the tackle position will be senior Elijah Keever, who missed all of last season because of a shoulder injury.
Catching passes on the outside will be senior All-SEK tight end Garrett Almond, junior Kam Koester, senior Blake Atwood and sophomore Dagen Dean. Both Almond and Atwood will use versatility, while Koester and Dean will use their height and versatility to put pressure on the defense. Senior Curtis Harris, sophomore Rawley Chard and Leedy will also use their all-around skillset to make plays on the outside.
Quarterbacking the team will be sophomore Eric Erbe, who has looked good in practice and camp. Erbe has the ability to throw darts on the outside, and he can roll out and throw on the run. The new starting quarterback will replace All-State and All-SEK quarterback Ty Bowman, who is now playing tight end at Kansas State University.
“He’s done a great job. He’s put in a ton of time in the off-season to perfect his craft, he’s done a terrific job in facilitating our offense, and calling plays and taking charge, so that’s good to see when you have a sophomore quarterback,” Frazell said.
On the line defensively will be a mix of the student-athletes on the offensive line. At the linebacker position will be Donovan, Leedy and junior Kedric Emling.
In the secondary will be senior All-SEK defensive back Harris, who does an exceptional job flying around the ball and hitting his opponent hard. Koester, Coombs and Atwood will use their skills in the secondary as well.
“The guys are a veteran group and they are ready to have a big season on the back end of our defense,” Frazell said. “They are strong kids, they’ll come up in run support. They’re also good cover guys.”
The team will be without several All-SEK players due to graduation: wide receiver Peavy, offensive lineman Jacob McDonald, linebacker Tyler Davis, kicker Jacob Adams, linebacker Hunter Zubieta, wide receiver Jaden Costin, offensive lineman Collin Hutson, offensive lineman Nolan Werner, and defensive back Colten Fritch.
Senior Tyson Lucas will replace Adams as kicker. His showings at national camps makes him one of the more talented kickers in the area.
Chanute will need their new leaders to step up versus Circle today. The Thunderbirds last season went 1-8 and lost in the first round of the playoffs against Andover Central – a school that went all the way to the 4A state finals to play Bishop Miege.
Circle lost several all-league players to graduation, but making their return will be junior All-League Honorable Mention wide receiver Jake Shaults and junior Luke McGinnis. McGinnis last season played receiver, but will start this year at quarterback.
Fourth-year Circle head football coach Logan Clothier said his group has been paying attention to detail and rallying around the football throughout camp the past few weeks.
“I’m just very excited, I know we’re very blessed to have a season with everything going on, I know our kids are excited, especially those seniors,” Clothier said. “I’m just extremely excited for our seniors and just our coaches. We’ve been putting in a lot of work in various Zoom calls just to keep the kids engaged when we weren’t able to meet in person. I’m just excited to kick the season off and take it one day at a time and keep getting to play.”
COVID-19 – There is at least one player on the Blue Comets who is quarantining due to a potential exposure to COVID-19. Circle doesn’t have any players impacted.
TICKETS – Every student-athlete will be given four vouchers to buy tickets.
STREAMING – CHS will stream as many games and matches as possible on YouTube. To stream these games, search for CHS Blue Comets on YouTube or look for the link on USD 413 social media.