State semifinalist Kearney moves to Class 4

08/19/2014 11:09 AM

08/19/2014 11:09 AM

As the owners of three Missouri state championships over the past 12 seasons, the Kearney Bulldogs seldom settle for mediocrity.

They won’t start now, either.

A year after reaching the Missouri Class 5 state semifinals, Kearney has dropped down to Class 4 this season — further enhancing the typically lofty expectations surrounding the program.

“I think the expectations are very high — not only in our program but outside the program in the community, too,” Kearney coach Greg Jones said. “They always are, but especially this year, moving back down to (Class) 4. There’s even more excitement around this team this year.”

A subtle change to the defensive philosophy helped kickstart the Bulldogs’ 2013 season. After allowing 77 points to Lee’s Summit in the second week of the season, the coaches decided to eliminate complex defensive formations and instead use only simple coverage packages. As a result, the Bulldogs held seven of their final 11 opponents to single digits.

Needless to say, Kearney plans to keep its defense simple again this season. That unit will be centered around junior Cale Garrett, a three-year starter who has garnered Division I interest. He will be flanked in the secondary by safeties Jake Gassman and Connor Allen.

“We’re going to keep it painless and let the kids play,” Jones said. “We have to just let the kids fly around and make plays. We have the kids who can do it. The center core is pretty good.”

The offense will undergo a few more changes, with senior Johnny Weidmaier set to take over the shotgun offense. He will be aided in his first year by a set of talented receivers in Zack Davis and Coalten Klenda. He will be protected by offensive tackle Tanner Owen, who committed to Missouri over the summer.

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