A central focus for the South Central Timberwolves football team this season will be physicality, according to head coach Billy Nichols.
The Timberwolves have a good group returning, but also lost a lot after last year.
"It's gonna take us a while to get back into form because we lost those four good athletes off the line last year, but I think once we pick it up as long as we stay healthy there we'll be OK,” Nichols said. “We'll be competitive anyway."
The team has a lot of speed this year, but with that comes the fact that often, that means a team lacks size.
"If you have a lot of speed than sometimes you're not very big, which that's us,” Nichols said. “I’m afraid those power B-gap power teams like Hodgeman and Hoxie and some of those are just ball-control us and run over us.”
Districts were redone this year. In the case of the Timberwolves and their district, District 2 of 8-Player Division I, it is hard to say what their schedule will be like.
They are the only Southern Plains - Iroquois Activities Association school in their district, which also includes Attica/Argonia, Caldwell, Udall, Oxford and Medicine Lodge.
Nichols said he isn’t sure what to make of it.
"Going east, it's gonna be a little different,” Nichols said. “You know Medicine Lodge is tired of losing and I think they're gonna be tough dropping to 8-Man.”
That, however, is just their district slate. Before that, they’ll have to take on both Hodgeman County and Spearville.
“Spearville, people think they're gonna be down but I guarantee you that if the program's used to winning they're hard to beat, it doesn't matter,” Nichols said.
Spearville has a new head coach this year. A team that doesn’t, however, is Hodgeman County, the 1A Division II runners-up last season who this year move up to 1A DI.
Nichols said that game will of course be a battle, though he hopes both teams stay healthy this year after Hodgeman County quarterback Jacob Salmans was hurt in last year’s game.
If everyone can stay healthy, Nichols said, playing both right before districts will be good.
"I'm glad to get to play (Spearville) and Hodgeman right in a row just to get us ready for district because I mean if you're not playing the top of your class than you're not gettin' any benefit,” Nichols said. “I'm glad we get to play 'em.”
Health is unquestionably important to the Timberwolves, but one of Nichols’ other keys to this season is making sure the team can also be physical enough to stop ball-control teams, he said.
“We've gotta be able to play defense good enough that we can halt those B-gap traps and those powers where they run that fullback right at those defensive ends,” Nichols said.
That defense is something Nichols said he cares about, maybe even more than offense.
"That's what I tell my boys all the time, 'I don't give a crap if we score,” Nichols said. “I just wanna make sure the other team doesn't,' because maybe we'll get 'em after five or six hours in overtime."
The Timberwolves open their season with a week one match in Bucklin Aug. 31.