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The Leon-Bluestem Lions are seeking their first winning season in over a decade. First-year head coach Ethan Haworth, who was the team’s assistant the previous three seasons, believes it’s not just an “X’s and O’s” problem that’s needed to turn around the football program but culture as well.

“We believe that something that has hindered Bluestem over the years is our players have been worried about themselves than about the team,” the Lions head coach said.

“We have come to the understanding and have preached it to the boys every day that no matter what we do, we do it together.”

Bluestem will return eight total starters on offense and seven on defense.

The wall upfront for the Lions will have 6’1” 225lbs. senior Daron Potter, 6’ 180lbs. senior Alex Miller, and 5’11 180lbs. senior Luke Simon blocking up front.

“The strengths of this team will be our upperclassman experience on both sides of the ball,” added coach Haworth.

A player not only Lions fans should keep an eye on this season, but visitors and opposing players, as well, is Junior Mike Harrison who stands at 6’2” and checks in at 195 lbs.

The player caller for the Lions offense, which will operate out of the Flex Bone this year, is senior Nic Laidler. The 6’ 165lbs. quarterback threw for 1,026 yards last season earning him All-League Honorable Mention.

While Bluestem is still trying to develop their skill players to put points on the board, coach Haworth believes the defense is more than capable of keeping his team in competitive games this season.

“We return 8 of our 11 starters on the defensive side of the ball. The familiarity of our scheme has allowed the kids to just react to their assignments and not spend so much time thinking.”

“We have also been preaching to the boys the importance of attention to detail and playing with passion; doing everything with a purpose and passion. These are all things that we believe we must improve on in order to be successful.”

That attention to detail will be crucial for the Lions as Bluestem faces one of the most challenging schedules in 2019.

Non-district action will pit Bluestem at home in the first two weeks again Tri-Valley foes Eureka and Cherryvale and then travel to Fredonia.

In district play, the Lions will only have 2 home games, against two quality opponents in Pleasanton and Olpe while traveling to Yates Center, Hillsboro, and Marion.

However, with that change in culture, mindset, a group of upperclassman leaders, the first-year head coach isn’t letting a tough schedule dim his optimism for 2019.

“This year is poised to be a good one for us.”

Follow the Bluestem Lions Football teams results and articles on their team page on Eastern Kansas Sports.

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