One of the newer faces around the Southern Plains - Iroquois Activities Association this year will be new Spearville athletic director and head football foach Travis Callaway.
He took over the summer after Matt Fowler left over the summer.
Fowler, of course, had tremendous success his last four years at Spearville, bringing the Lancers into royalty within eight-man football in Kansas. They made the playoffs every year since 2013, falling in the sub-state game each of the past two years and having won the state title in 2015.
Some elements of the team’s play will be similar under Callaway.
“Defensively we’re gonna look pretty much the same as in the past,” Callaway said.
The major differences will more be how the team runs its offense.
“Offensively we’ll be more of a I guess what I would call ‘a traditional eight-man offense’ and formation-wise (have) a little I(-formation) and some of that stuff, as compared to the single-wing that they’ve been running,” Callaway said. “Philosophically we’re gonna still look to run the ball the majority of the time, and we’ll take our chances in the passing game when the chance arises.”
Through drill-work and camp, the team players have learned fairly quickly, Callaway said.
“We got the majority of our offense put in through the end of camp there,” Callaway said. “Obviously there’s a lot of fine-tuning that will have to go on, as there is any season even if you (are) coming back with the same scheme.”
The speed at which the players picked up the concepts of what they were trying to do definitely helped the players’ confidence despite how vastly different of a scheme it was from what they have run most, if not all, of their playing careers. Callaway said.
For the team’s success to continue, the family atmosphere and culture the team and community have built around Spearville Football will be important to continue.
Anytime you can get it where the kids play for each other and put the team first over their own accomplishments, teams can have a lot of success, Callaway said.
“That’s the thing that we really want to keep: That type of tradition alive that they’ve established the last five, six years,” Callaway said.
There will, of course, be growing pains, there always are when installing new systems. Some games, Callaway said, things just won’t click, especially early in the season.
“That’s where we hopefully can rely on a defense that returns three or four guys that played an awful lot and we’ll lean on them guys to help bring some of the younger guys along,” Callaway said. “If we can play good defense and keep other teams from scoring, we’ll get the offensive side of things figured out and get going as the season goes if there’s struggles that come about early on with a change in offense.”
One possible indicator for those growing pains could be an extra turnover every now and then, Callaway said, because players are still trying to learn how a called play will look in a game.
“A play may look great in practice, and then you get to a game and some variable changes and you focus on something instead of ball security, or something like that,” Callaway said. “Sometimes there’s gonna be some turnovers there. Hopefully have experienced enough kids at the skill-positions that that shouldn’t be a huge issue.”
One of those key players is returning quarterback and three-year starter Kolby Stein.
“Even though it’s a new offense, he’s still an experienced player, so you’re not breaking in a new quarterback and a new offense at the same time,” Callaway said. “Hopefully that will kind of help take away a few of the type (of) things that you might see when you’re changing offenses as drastically as we will be.”
Stein’s experience also gives the team a chance to hopefully develop the next quarterback’s understanding of the system.
“It’ll give us a chance to figure out kind of who the guy that steps into Kolby’s shoes will be in the future and get them some game-reps through JV and hopefully some varsity game-reps through that period of time so when they step in, they’re not completely new to playing in that on a Friday night,” Callaway said.
The Lancers start their season Aug. 31 when they host Satanta.