Last season, Perkins County was undefeated heading into the second round of the playoffs. The Plainsmen were averaging 59 points per game.
Then their season abruptly ended when they were edged 33-30 by No. 10 seed Burwell, which went on to win the Eight Man-1 state championship.
However, it’s a familiar face. Previously an assistant with the Plainsmen, Lance Steffen was promoted following the departure of Carlie Wells. While Steffen knows transition can be difficult, he said everybody is on the same page.
“They already know my expectations and my beliefs,” Steffen said. “If you’re going to be dedicated to us, you’re going to see the benefits at the beginning of the season.”
That dedication begins with numerous workouts. Getting stronger. Getting faster. Getting bigger. Those are the building blocks that Steffen wanted to start this offseason.
“Being dedicated to the weight room has never hurt anybody,” Steffen said. “Working hard has never been bad for anybody.”
With a fair amount returning from a 9-1 team, expectations are high for Perkins County. But Steffen doesn’t want records, scores and stats to be the measuring stick.
“My only expectation is that we work hard and that we try to compete every day,” Steffen said. “I think if we can come in and work day in and day out, then we’ll be pleased with the results.”
Eight-Man 1 No. 3 Perkins County
Coach: Lance Steffen, 1st season
Returning starters: TE/DE Tyson Patrick (Sr.), QB/DB Charles Johnson (Sr.), FB/MLB Josh Johnston (Sr.), OL/DL Jack Kennicutt (Sr.), TE/DB Michael Beck (Sr.)
Key returning player: Quarterback Charles Johnson has started for the Plainsmen since he was a freshman and has 21 career rushing touchdowns and five interceptions.
“He’s a good athlete for us and a smart kid,” Steffen said.
Key departure: Defensive back Kiffen Cook led the team with 98 tackles the past two seasons.
“He was a vocal leader who will be really tough to replace,” Steffen said.
Breakout player: Fullback Domonic Wendell, who has been able to put on some weight during the offseason, has impressed Steffen in workouts and said he’s poised to have a productive season.
“He’s really embodying what we were doing and is committing to what we’re talking about,” Steffen said.
Others to watch: TE/MLB Tanner Burge (Jr.)
On offense: Perkins County will run the option, based mainly out of the I-formation, with some power run sets in Steffen’s first season.
“You’re going to have to stop the option if you want to beat us,” Steffen said.
A wide receiver at Peru State, Steffen said he also hopes to feature the passing game.
On defense: The Plainsmen will rely on the defensive line and secondary, as linebacker Josh Johnston will miss most of the season because of a lower leg injury. Johnston has been a starter since he was a freshman.
Game to watch: Steffen said the opening matchup against Cambridge will be one of the tougher games on the schedule.
“I think they’ve been focused during the offseason. They’re a top 10 team that will let us know who we are,” Steffen said.
2017 schedule (with 2016 record)
x-Aug. 25, Cambridge (4-5)
x-Sept. 1, at Amherst (2-7)
Sept. 9, at Southwest (2-6)
Sept. 15, Sedgwick County (12-1)
x-Sept. 22, Hemingford (6-3)
x-Sept. 29, Dundy County-Stratton (5-4)
x-Oct. 13, Sutherland (3-6)
Oct. 20, at Morrill (1-7)
X — denotes playoff teams; District opponents in bold type
Which team will win the 2017 Eight Man-1 state championship?
The World-Herald has started preparing you for the high school football season with a story previewing a new team or teams each week day. This past week Eight Man-1 was featured. Who do you think will win the title?