Last season was filled with plenty of peaks and valleys for the Lebo Wolves. With a core group of players being underclassmen in the previous year and a first-year head coach, those were anticipated. Lebo finished the season 4-5 and saw a first-round exit in the playoffs to Canton-Galva 54-6. Another year under their belts, the Wolves seem poised for a breakout season this fall.
Second-year coach Brian Hadley is the only coach in the Lyon County League that can say he did not lose any players to graduation; however, the injury bug affected the team before the season even began.
1st Team LCL selection Avery Peek tore his ACL this summer. His 711 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns led the team last year. Junior quarterback Devan McEwen will be forced to look for other targets through the air after finishing the previous year 105-204 with 1,271 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Junior Jerome Ferguson will help fill the void left from Peek’s injury. Ferguson hauled in 345 yards over 24 catches for five touchdowns last year. Junior Andrew Bailey and Sophomore Kyle Reese are two tailbacks that shouldn’t be overlooked, as the duo combined for ten touchdowns.
Senior Kadon Ott anchors both the sides of the line. Ott, 6’5″, 190lbs, led the team in sacks last year with 3.5. The Wolves defense surrendered 31.78 points per game last year, and fellow Senior Kaden Schroeder will help in reducing that number. Schroeder finished the 2018 campaign with 24 tackles and four fumble recoveries. A talented freshman class will have several players pushing for playing time as the season progresses.
A star-studded District 3 will have Lebo pitted against fellow LCL foes Madison and Burlingame. Lebo came out of the district fourth last year after narrowly losing to Maranatha 24-20. With plenty of experience returning, the Wolves have an opportunity to improve upon their record and make a run in the playoffs. The Wolves have not reached the third round of the playoffs since 2010.
We visited with Coach Hadley before practice began last week.
SEK-sports.com: What were some things that stood out in your first year of coaching at Lebo?
Brian Hadley: We were a really young team last year with no seniors and only three juniors, but we competed so hard in games. I really admired my team for that all season long. The players were very open to running a new scheme and worked hard at learning the new concepts.
SEKS: Your group of kids has had success in other sports, with Head Basketball Coach Dwayne Paul winning LCL championship and state tournament birth last year, does that have any carryover effect to the gridiron?
BH: I think having a taste of success in basketball will definitely have a positive affect. The boys know how hard you have to work and play in order to beat the best teams. Being a year older and the gains we have seen in the weight room over the last year should help boost our confidence for not only football but for all sports this year.
SEKS: What are some of the team’s goals for 2019?
BH: Our goal is to win a league championship and make a deep run in the playoffs.
SEKS: Largest obstacle to overcome this season?
BH: Unfortunately, it will be injuries to key starters. Senior Avery Peek tore his ACL this summer and will miss the season. We will miss his production and leadership and will need someone to step up to fill that void. We also lost Junior Gabe Hodges on the defensive line. He will miss the season as well after having shoulder surgery.
SEKS: Biggest strength heading into 2019?
BH: We return everyone outside of Peek and Hodges, but we will be able to add a couple of players that will have a huge impact on our team. Senior John Reese and Sophomore Jonas Konrade are great athletes, and we expect big things from them this year. I feel like our players really enjoy working hard for each other.
SEKS: Individuals that stood out during summer camp/workout programs?
BH: Devan McEwen, Kyle Reese, Kaden Schroder, Andrew Bailey
SEKS: Which game on the schedule that you are most looking forward to?
BH: Waverly because it’s our first game, and Madison week 5 for Homecoming. Both of these games will be big factors in starting the season right and deciding the league race.
SEKS: What will define 2019 as a successful season?
BH: A top-two finish in both league and district play, and making it to the third week of the playoffs.
Be sure to follow the Lebo Wolves Football team page on Eastern Kansas Sports for results and content on the site.
We appreciate Coach Hadley in contributing to this article. Good Luck to the Wolves, we are looking forward to covering them this fall.