The Cimarron Bluejays football team had all the ingredients of a team trying to set a foundation for future seasons having only three returning seniors and 23 players returning from a 2-7 record in 2011.
The Bluejays seniors rallied the troops before the season started and the squad has bought into the system with a 6-1 record going into Friday night's home contest against the Southwestern Heights Mustangs.
"This bunch has really come together as a team," said Cimarron head coach Doug Minneman. "Coaches always say this, but our kids understand it takes all of them to do their jobs to be successful.
"To be at 6-1 and play for an opportunity to make the (Class 3A) playoffs is the best position we could be in."
The lack of injuries has also helped the Bluejays this season. Cimarron has had to replace only one player due to injury: junior quarterback Caleb Fischer hurt his arm in the Meade game and was replaced by A.J. Cooper. The injury didn't completely take Fischer out of the game as he is still the extra-point and field goal kicker for the Bluejays.
"We've been fortunate that we haven't lost too many from injury," Minneman said. "We've had bruises and bumps, but we have been able to keep ourselves healthy."
Minneman also said the skill position players have helped in bringing a balanced attack on offense, instead of the run-oriented attack Cimarron has used in the past.
The Bluejays average 236 yards rushing and 121 passing this season. Junior Ty Clark has rushed for more than 100 yards in six of the seven games and scored 14 touchdowns.
Cody Toothaker has three sacks on the season and averages 6.4 sacks a game for Cimarron, while the Bluejays defense has forced six fumble recoveries and six interceptions (three by Christian Fischer).
"We have more team speed than in the past," Minneman said. "The skill people have grown into their positions.
"Defensively, (Cimarron assistant) Van Kenton has the guys playing at a high level. We're limiting the other teams' big plays and forcing turnovers."
The three returning seniors with varsity experience -- backs Alex Neuschafer and Josh Meis and lineman Aiden Shaughnessy -- have shown the way for the rest of the squad what it takes to be successful out on the field, especially in close games and after the squad's only loss.
Cimarron's last three victories have a one-point win at Larned, a six-point win against Elkhart, and a three-point victory at Lakin to open district play. All this happened after the Bluejays lost 56-0 at home to Meade.
"This bunch has a lot of character and a lot of heart, and we have a very strong senior leadership," Minneman said. "They have responded to the challenges in front of them. The kids understand how and what it takes to win the close ones."