GOWER, Mo. — At East Buchanan High School, football tradition doesn’t have to be explained by head coach Kevin Bryan.
“A lot of these kids were ball boys or water boys on the sideline. They understand the intensity and the expectations,” Bryan said at the first day of practice Monday. “When you come to East Buchanan, it’s to go far in the playoffs, win a lot of games, make your town proud and make yourself proud, and put your stamp on the East Buchanan legacy.”
Regardless of returning starters, the number of newcomers or outside expectations, the bond in the huddle is what leads the yearly KCI contenders.
“We’ve got a long tradition of being good,” senior Tucker White said. “That makes a big difference, makes me want to keep that going.”
Tradition and taking to coaching will play a big role for the 2019 Bulldogs, who enter a new campaign after a trip to the district semifinals.
“You don’t forget games like that,” senior Darin Griffin said. “Those are big ones, and those stick with ya.”
East Buchanan suffered its first defeat to Mid-Buchanan in more than a decade, unable to replicate an overtime victory earlier in the season in Gower.
Even for lineman Owen Mitchell, who missed last season with a leg injury, the Bulldogs aim to restore the expectation of a deep playoff run this season.
“I come back for a vengeance,” Mitchell said. “I didn’t get to play at all last year, I’m coming 100% this year — 110%.”
Aside from losing running back Tristin Smith and several linemen, the Bulldogs must replace all-state quarterback Tyler Schottel, who proved to be one of the most prolific passers in Missouri over the past two-plus years.
East Buch’s plan revolves around two, three, even four players lining up under center to utilize runners and passers. Be it White, Darin Griffin or another arm, Bryan hopes to add something to the arsenal beginning Aug. 30 against South Harrison.
“The last three years, we’ve had a set quarterback and set people. Now we’re kinda moving people around, they’re all getting a chance at a different spot,” Bryan said. “We’re a bit inexperienced, so we’re giving kids a chance to blossom.”
Along with standout receiver Owen Fortney returning, Bryan has his eyes set on a number of players to fill even bigger roles in 2019. Junior Heath Wally will anchor the lines after starting last season, while Blake Antel and Drew Thompson will step up in roles in the receiving corps and secondary.
With the KCI set to be as competitive as ever, alongside state runners-up Lathrop and state semifinalist Mid-Buchanan, the Bulldogs hope to be in the fight at the end of the season.
“Every Friday night you better bring your A-game,” Bryan said, “because in this conference, it prepares you for down the road.”