Rebuilding is typically a term used metaphorically to describe a high school varsity sports program, but for Eureka High School it is a term the team has literally adopted last season and going into the first half of the 2019 campaign.
The town of Eureka was hit by an EF3 tornado that demolished more than 90 homes in its path and obliterated not only the varsity football field, but also part of the high school, including weights, equipment room, and coaches offices.
“It’s been a little slow going at times this summer with all the rain, but the official word is week 4 will be our first game at home since 2017.” Said second-year Eureka Head Coach Jason Nichols.
If construction stays on track Eureka, who’s team nickname is “Tornadoes,” will play at home in week 4 against Fredonia. That game has been labeled as the team’s homecoming game for 2019.
A closer look at the 2018 results will show that Eureka, who finished 3-6, had two close games that could have put them in a winning season. Those close games along with a returning group of experienced players and more players coming out to play football have coach Nichols optimistic about the upcoming season.
“Going into this fall, we have 20 letter winners returning, 10 defensive starters returning, and I am anticipating close to 50 players coming out for football.”
The Eureka defense will have back upfront, senior Mason McDonald, who is listed at 6’2” and comes back off a season where he accounted for 28 tackles and 2 sacks.
Another key return for Jason Nichols squad is Terik Crisswell, who only played in six games last year. The 6’4” senior recorded 38 tackles, one sack and one fumble caused. Junior Braden Rucker will also play a factor at 6’2” 215 lbs. and waiting in shadows upfront is senior Brandon Darbyshire.
The linebacking core will have only one senior, but between the four projected starters, all have a combined 198 tackles from last year, led by junior Brennan Lowe. The 5’8 155 lbs. junior also recorded 2 fumbles along with sophomore Cole Strickler, who is listed at over 6’. Junior Brent Escareno and senior Zach Hare will have their opportunities as well in the linebacker spot.
In the secondary will be senior Justin Zimmers and Cade Larcom, both at 6’ 140lbs while junior Hayden Mead and sophomore Garrison Spoonts will be protecting against deep throws. Spoonts was credited with five interceptions as a freshman last year while Larcom deflected the ball seven times.
“Our strengths will be in our number of returning key players, some talent on our lines, and our defense overall.” Nichols pointed out.
Offensively, Larcom will slide over to the quarterback position, moving from wide receiver. He replaces Cade Burden, who was lost to graduation.
Junior Brennan Lowe, 5’8” 155 lbs., returns as the ball carrier in a spread style offense. He will be flanked by wide receivers Zach Hare, who led the team last year with 717 yards receiving and six touchdowns as well as 6’ senior Justin Zimmers. A trio of sophomores looks to factor into the receiving game including 6’2” Cole Strickler, Garrison Spoonts, and Wyatt Samuels.
“Our adversity this season will be replacing our starting quarterback and the potential for another season of road games”.
Eureka will open the season on the road against Tri-Valley foe Leon-Bluestem and was scheduled to play at home against Caney Valley and Humboldt. However, those two games will be played on the neutral facilities of Chanute and Iola respectively.
In district play, Eureka will play league rivals Fredonia, Neodesha, and Cherryvale as well as Douglass and Belle Plaine.
“Going into the second summer under this staff, we have already seen the benefits of a second season with the same schemes, vocabulary, etc.”
Follow the Eureka Tornadoes Football results from all season on their team page on Eastern Kansas Sports.
Author’s note: an earlier edition of the article incorrectly stated that Eureka missed the playoffs last year when they, in fact, did qualify. Also, we incorrectly had Braden Rucker listed. Also, Garrison Spoonts was originally listed as only have 2 interceptions when he had 5. Our apologies for the errors.