Joplin aims to reload on defense in 2022

The Eagles lose 9 of 11 starters from last season.

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Joplin Eagles are in the middle of their first week of football practice.

On defense, the Eagles will have plenty of new faces on the field this fall – after graduating 9 of 11 starters from last year’s team.

“The good thing is the two guys we have back are a 1st team All-State kid in Draven VanGilder and Johnny Williams, who is right there with him,” says head coach Curtis Jasper on the defense, “They’re at that linebacker level so they can quarterback the defense. The nice thing is, being in class 6 and having good numbers, hopefully we reload and not rebuild on that side of the ball.”

“Honestly, I really do think we have some guys who can fill those roles from last year,” says defensive lineman Luke Gunn, “I know there were four senior starters who left on the defensive line. They’re big shoes to fill, but a lot of us who were juniors last year are trying to fill those holes.”

“We know there will still be some growing pains along the way, but hopefully we can mitigate those as much as possible,” Jasper adds.

On the offensive side, the Eagles return All-State offensive lineman Dontrell Holt – as well as a two-headed monster in the backfield, featuring Quin Renfro and Drew VanGilder.

Renfro rushed for 754 yards and 8 touchdowns last season, while VanGilder posted 577 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The Eagles will have a new quarterback this fall. Junior Hobbs Gooch will lead the Joplin offense this fall after the graduation of Always Wright.

“His work ethic is fantastic. His coachability is great. He got that start in districts last year and was able to lead us to a big win,” Jasper says of Gooch, “We’re really excited about where he’s at at this point in time. We understand he’s still got work to do, and he understands that and he’s here every day putting in that work and building those leadership skills. He understands what it takes to lead this offense. He had a good one to study under last year, so you know…he understands.”

Check out more from Joplin in our Pigskin Preview – which will be released Wednesday night at 6:30 PM on