Expectations Still High at Stanberry Despite New Leadership

By Matt Tritten | mtritten@kq2.com

Published 08/14 2014 06:01PM

Updated 08/14 2014 07:27PM

(STANBERRY, Mo.) After 17 seasons at Stanberry, the Dan Collins era is over, but that's not changing much around the football program.

"It's about the exact same," senior quarterback Isaac Heddinger said. "I mean we still run the ball and still play defense."

Despite turnover at the top, consistency remains at Stanberry as a longtime assistant takes over.

After leading Stanberry to a state title victory in 2012 over North Andrew, and another appearance in 2013, the school board didn't renew Collins' contract at the end of the school year.

Shane Hilton worked under Collins for the last 14 years, and is now getting his shot as a head coach, and the stakes are high after appearances in back-to-back state championship games.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge," Hilton said. "I know there's a lot of expectations out there, but I think it's something that myself and the coaching and the kids are ready to handle."

If replacing a state champion head coach wasn't enough, the Bulldogs are also trying to fill the void left by the loss of a three-time all-state performer.

Nate Luke led all of 8-man with 1,995 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns. Hilton doesn't plan on finding one running back to replace those numbers.

"We'll be doing it a little bit differently this year spreading the wealth a little bit, and that's really the only way to pick up the slack. He almost rushed for 2,000 yards last year, so you can't really replace him with one guy. We're going to try to replace him with three or four guys."

The return of three all-state offensive linemen in Mason Rosier, Shelby McMillen and Quentin Nielson will also go along way toward opening up running lanes for the backs.

After coming up one game short of a second straight championship last season, Stanberry has its sights set on another trip to St. Louis.

"We know what it feels like to win and we know what it feels like to lose," McMillen said. "We hated losing so much, we just have that hunger to get a second state title for our school and for our town."

"The last time we played was when you were walking off the field with a loss," Heddinger said. "So it doesn't feel that good, which I think helps motivate and drive everyone to work harder all off-season and so far this year."

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