PITTSBURG, Kan. - This week is the opening week of practice for Kansas high school football teams.
The Pittsburg Purple Dragons got on the field on Monday afternoon for their first practice of the season.
Pittsburg finished last season with an 8-2 overall record, making it to the second round of the 5A playoffs before being knocked out by Bishop Miege.
The Dragons graduated some studs from last year's team, including linebackers Jerek Butcher (KU) and Dylan Jordan (TCU) who signed to play in the Big 12, as well as wide receiver Dylan White, who is now with the Pittsburg State Gorillas.
"That senior class last year was a special class," says Pittsburg senior defensive lineman Shay Mahnken, "It's going to be hard to beat them, but we got a heck of a senior class, and we've been working super hard the last four years. We're going to try our best and see what we got."
"This class will make their own mark," adds head coach Tom Nickelson, who is entering his 9th season as the leader of the program, "That class was known for speed and physicality. This one is going to be known for something else. They'll leave their mark. This senior class is really sick of hearing about those kids. They were great for our program, but they want to make this program theirs this year. So we're just asking them to be the best they can be, and they've done a great job all off-season preparing for this."
The Purple Dragons bring back just three starters on the offensive side of the ball, and five on defense. Their defensive line will be a strength this year, led by seniors Sam Herring, Aaron Woods and Shay Mahnken.
"Shay was a state powerlifting champ last year for us," Nickelson says, "They're just good tough-nosed kids, and they will be the anchor of our defense. We need those three to be able to control the line of scrimmage for us, because we're going to have a lot of inexperienced people behind them,"
Pittsburg will kick off the season on September 6th, on the road against former SEK rival Labette County.
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