Conway Springs football: New faces in running game
Failing to capture the Class 3A championship and losing twice to rival Garden Plain is about as rough as it gets for Conway Springs.
That insult was cruelly supplemented by season-ending injuries to five key players, including linebacker Dakota Finstad.
The consequences were evident. After allowing 14 total points in their first two games, the Cardinals surrendered double-digit totals in each of their final nine. In the last four games, Conway Springs gave up 146 points, its season ending in a 33-28 loss to Garden Plain in the playoffs.
It just started cascading from us, coach Matt Biehler said. Thats one of the keys this year, which it is for almost everybody, is depth and keeping kids healthy. We tried to put a big emphasis to the kids about keeping themselves in the best shape possible and as injury-free as possible. Sometimes its easier said than done.
Those final four games included an 84-56 win over Chaparral in which Tanner Wood, now at Kansas State, rushed for a state-record 659 yards on 36 carries.
The hallmark of virtually all of Conway Springs six state titles in the last 12 years has been its ability to run the ball, and even without Wood that is unlikely to change. Alec Stanley rushed for 549 yards as No. 2 on the depth chart, and seven players other than Wood totaled 21 rushing touchdowns.
Biehler has time to wait for one of those players to emerge as the primary option because the Cardinals offensive line should be the early key to the running attack. Returning are senior Ethan Roth and juniors Logan Creek and Thomas Bernsten, all 6-foot-1 or taller and 250-plus pounds.
We feel like those kids that played last year, theyre a year older now, Biehler said. Theyve gotten stronger, and weve really talked to them about getting better speed and improving their footwork. Having another year under their belt is positive for them.
CONWAY SPRINGS CARDINALS
Coach: Matt Biehler, fifth year, 45-5
League: Central Plains
Last season: 9-2, lost in second round of Class 3A playoffs
Last five seasons: 57-7
Projected 2013 playoff team? Yes
Top skill players
|Sept. 6||at Bluestem|
|Sept. 13||Caney Valley|
|Sept. 27||at Cheney|
|Oct. 4||at Trinity Academy|
|Oct. 11||Garden Plain|
|Oct. 18||at Belle Plaine|
Dakota Finstad on his team
What Conway Springs does well: We overpower everyone. Our (offensive) line is big this year. Weve got a bunch of experience up there this year, too, so thats going to help us.
What has to improve: Probably the depth at certain positions. We need to get some of the younger people some more reps, so that way whenever people are tired we can get them some rest.