If there is one team in the state of Kansas who has come to know off-field adversity, it’s the Eureka Tornado Football team.
In June 2018, an EF-3 tornado ripped through part of the school and football field.
That season the team was forced to play all of its games on the road.
In 2019, the team’s repaired-field was ready for play. Eureka finished the last seven games at home.
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a roller coaster experience for Eureka football coach Jason Nichols and his seniors.
“My first year was in 2018, we went 3-6, but I felt laid the foundation for what became our best season here in quite a while.”
Last year was the same amount of wins as the Tornadoes had in the previous three seasons combined.
The core group of that transformation will take the field in their senior seasons.
“Our senior class this year is smaller, more stoic, and reserved. The overall attitude may seem different for those watching us from the stands,” commented Nichols.
“We are still the same team at heart and I don’t anticipate much really changing overall, but (team’s personality) will be different.”
Leading the way is the hard-hitting two-way starter senior Brennan Lowe.
The 5’9″ running back and linebacker was named All-District at both positions last season.
On offense, Lowe ran for 682 yards, including four games over 100-yards. He hauled in 130 yards on 11 receptions as well.
Senior Brent Escareno will be a force in the backfield as well. The All-District Flex honoree chewed up 567 yards on the ground and recorded 105 receiving yards.
Hayden Mead, 5’20” 165lbs. senior, is competing for the starting quarterback job this year.
Mead spent all of last year playing as a wide receiver on offense.
Protecting him this season is All-District lineman, 6’4″ 240lbs. Braden Rucker.
“Our line on both sides of the ball could be young depending on how our first few weeks of practice go,” said the Eureka Tornadoes football coach.
“We will also (start) a new quarterback, so how smoothly that transition goes is going to be very important.”
While many of Eureka’s offensive players double as defensive starters, one player in particular to watch is Garrison Spoonts.
The 5’10” 180lbs. junior was named All-District in his sophomore season.
With so much adversity off the field, playing in more competitive games the past two seasons, coach Duncan says his team is still learning how to win.
“It’s a bit of a cliche, but people need to learn how to win, and at first it takes some getting used to when you haven’t done it in a while.”
Consistent production on the field from kick-off to the final buzzer is an area of emphasis.
“That mindset of doing what it takes consistently to win games, not just sometimes being at your best and then taking you foot off the gas so to speak.”
Eureka will compete in Class 2A District 2 in 2020 and 2021. The Tornadoes join fellow Tri-Valley League foe Humboldt, as well as, Jayhawk-Linn, Osage City, Wellsville, and West Franklin.
“We have a different district with teams I am unfamiliar with, and the school hasn’t played in quite a while,” commend Nichols.
However, that doesn’t change the goals or expectations of the Eureka coach.
“My main expectations and goals for this season are the same: we will be better than we were last year.”