(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The LeBlond seniors feel a special bond with head football coach Tony Dudik.
When the longtime football coach made his way to Bishop LeBlond four years ago, the class of 2014 was ready to play for him as freshmen.
"From day one out here we knew it was going to be a journey," Dudik said. "First couple years we struggled; played a lot of young kids who hung in there."
After back-to-back one win seasons, the Eagles broke through in 2012 winning seven games, and making an appearance in the district championship.
"Every single year, we kept working, got a lot better," senior lineman Grant Thrasher said. "Coach Dudik's out here every single day, he's always inspiring us to get better and better and better, and I believe every day we have gotten better."
Now the class that began their high school careers under Dudik -- and have played a big role in the LeBlond football transformation -- enter the final year with the coach.
"I definitely feel very blessed that our freshmen year was the first year that he came," senior receiver Patrick Dillon said. "We've been here from the beginning, so it's been a learning process for the both of us together."
"It's been great. Same offense for four years, and also getting to know coach, and how he wants things and how we do things," senior quarterback Matthew McCullough said. "It's just come to the point to where he doesn't have to say it, we already know what to do."
With Dudik manning the sideline, the Eagles won their first conference games last year since entering the Midland Empire Conference in 2008. Running back Austin Dawkins racked up more than 1,500 rushing yards leading LeBlond to a winning record. But with Dawkins graduated, the purple and gold aren't expecting a dip in offensive production.
"He was a good running back. He helped us tremendously," senior receiver Tyler Thrasher said. "But this year we've worked hard and we're going to push through it and get to where we need to be."
"We're going to miss him greatly. It's just going to force us to be more balanced across the front, and that's going to force people to play more solid defense and not take risks because we do have kids that can hurt you," Dudik said.
A couple of those kids include Tyler Thrasher and Dillon -- skill players that have developed a relationship with their quarterback.
"Tyler Thrasher and Pat Dillon, they're receivers that I've gone to since we were sophomores and juniors," McCullough said. "Coming in as seniors we know what to do, and I have a relationship with them. I know their speed, and I know their timing. We connect, definitely."
As the LeBlond seniors enter one final football season together -- and with their coach -- they're hoping to make a few more lasting memories.
"Heck, we've been going to school for a long time now together. We played basketball, all kinds of things together," Grant Thrasher said. "That just makes us love each other even more. We're like family. You can't really break that apart."
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