A 74-26 loss to Canton-Galva ended a very successful run for Burlingame over the last several years. The Bearcats finished 8-2 and saw their streak of three consecutive Lyon County League championships come to an end with a narrow defeat to Madison, 26-24. During those four years, the Bearcats went 41-5. Seth Greenwood and Montana Giffin, and the rest of the 2019 Senior class will be held high in Bearcat lore, much how Charlie Masters and the 1972 State Championship team are still talked about today. Even though they were unable to claim a state championship, they helped return Burlingame back to the top of the LCL after several decades of being the league’s bottom feeders.
Jeff Slater, 47-8, enters his sixth year leading the Bearcats. Eric West and Nick Brungardt will join him on the sidelines. They will need to replace all but two starters on each side of the ball. Success breeds success, and the Bearcats will turn to a more younger team for Burlingame to maintain their level of excellence. Returners Cole Thomas and Kade Kline will provide senior leadership in molding the 2019 squad. Kline has enormous shoes to fill in replacing Giffin at quarterback, but having Thomas behind him in the backfield has the Bearcats in good hands.
A return to the playoffs will be a tough task but not out of reach for Burlingame. Last year they claimed runner-up in District 3. Madison, Maranatha, Lebo, and Chase County return a majority of talent and will be one of the toughest districts in the state. The Bearcat’s first three opponents finished a combined 7-21 last year. Burlingame will need to get up to speed fast before beginning district play against Chase County on September 27th. The regular-season finale with Lebo on October 25th will be a pivotal matchup for district play, and will most likely decide the runner-up in the LCL.
We spoke with Coach Slater before fall practice began.
Eastern Kansas Sports – Entering into your sixth year, you are now the longest-tenured coach in the Lyon County League. How much have you grown as a coach during those first five years?
Jeff Slater – I have been fortunate to coach in 55 games my first five years, so I have gained a lot of experience thought some postseason runs, coaching in the KEMFA All-Star games, attending clinics, and learning from other great coaches across our state. I believe it’s important to always continue to learn and improve as a coach. This offseason has been a great one, and I’m looking forward to implementing some new things in our program to help us be successful.
SEKS – The class of 2019 was one of the most successful groups of players that Burlingame has seen in quite some time,(41-5 in four years) what will you miss the most?
JS – That group was a fun bunch. You always knew what you were going to get from those guys. Whether it was at practice, the classroom, or on game day. I will miss the competitiveness they brought. Seth Greenwood, Montana Giffin, and Keller Snesrud were great competitors. They thrived in big moments throughout the years. It’s always tough to replace a group like that. We are hoping to have a few kids, like Trevin Lewis, this upcoming year have a breakout year and take advantage of the opportunity.
SEKS – You have a very active role on social media, coach_slater42 Has this presence helped any of your athletes get looks from the next level, they may not have had without the power of social media?
JS-Being an 8-man school and the JUCOs no longer having an out of state limit, recruiting it has not helped. We see a few schools a year in our hallways, and that’s about it. I believe it helps as a motivation tool and exposure tool for our media outlets like yourself. They can see what our guys have been doing all offseason and relate it to the material they publish.
SEKS-What are some goals for the 2019 season?
JS – Compete for a league championship. Make the playoffs. Emphasize TEAM performance over individual performance.
SEKS – Largest obstacle to overcome in 2019?
JS – Our youth and lack of strength. We are younger, with only three seniors. Sometimes when you’re young, you struggle with physical teams. Our district is very tough, with most teams returning key contributors from last year. We need to gain experience in our first three weeks to be ready for our schedule to intensify down the stretch.
SEKS – What is the biggest strength heading into 2019?
JS-Our backfield. We have a good balance of speed and power. Cole Thomas has very good speed, his break-away speed can be game-changing. We will work to get him to the edge this year. Wyatt Ledom has a little speed and quickness, with more side to side speed than Thomas. We are looking forward to incorporating incoming Freshman Colby Middleton in our backfield this fall. He possesses the power in our backfield, and will be a load for teams in the next four years. The secondary will be our strength on defense. Thomas returns as a starter, and Garrett Robison should have a breakout year. Sophomores Kris Hovestadt and Chandler Davidson will battle for our third spot. We will have plenty of speed in our secondary.
SEKS – Any individuals that stood out during summer camp/workout programs?
JS-Overall, our team had a fantastic summer. We had a 94% attendance for the summer sessions. We really don’t have great individual numbers, but our work ethic was tremendous this summer. We absolutely improved; hopefully, it can carry over to the field on Friday nights.
SEKS – Game on the schedule you are most looking forward to?
JS – Week 4 VS Chase County(Homecoming). This game stands out because it will be a very tough opponent, returning almost every key player. This is the district opener and will have a huge impact on the race to the playoffs. Obviously, Maranatha, Madison, and Lebo are key games, but getting a good start to district play will be key for us.
SEKS – What will define 2019 as a successful season?
JS – Our kids showing up and competing. When adversity hits, are we a team that faces it head-on and overcomes it, or are we a team that tucks its tail and runs? In my six years at Burlingame, we haven’t ever done the latter. We plan on showing up for a fight every Friday night and putting our best foot forward. It’s time for the 2019 team to demonstrate that.
Thanks to Coach Slater for his interview. Good luck to the Bearcats in 2019.
Follow the Burlingame Bearcats Football team results on Eastern Kansas Sports with their team page in the Pioneer League.