MOUND CITY, Mo. — Coach Taylor Standerford doesn’t have to think hard about the expectations he has for Mound City football.
It’s been a little more than a year since Standerford first coached the Panthers under the lights. The team’s seventh state championship in November overshadowed anything connected to his newness.
Mound City has yet to lose a game under the Humboldt, Nebraska, native’s direction. Though most of last year’s starters are returning, none of it will matter when the season kicks off.
“These guys know that last year is over with,” Standerford said. “It’s a whole new team. Everybody is a new team this year. You got to prepare like everyone is 0-0 right now, because they are. Nobody is better than any other team right now.”
The Panthers return several key pieces from last year’s team, including senior TJ Hopkins, senior Tony Osburn and junior Landon Poppa.
The group has worked alongside other upperclassmen to teach newcomers what it took to win a title.
“We won a state championship last year, so you know what it takes,” Hopkins said. “We have most of our starters coming back, but we lost two big players. So, we got to show thest younger guys what it is like and how to work hard to work to win a state championship.”
Hopkins, Osburn and Poppa were a small part of a dominant group that also included former Panthers Dylan Marrs and Matthew Poppa.
The five worked with other teammates to create a ground-heavy offense that went to the air every now and then. Standerford plans to keep things the same in 2019.
“We were a ground and pound team,” Standerford said. “That’s who we are, that’s who we’ll be. It’s not going to change. These guys like that.”
Landon Poppa is slated to be the main quarterback for Mound City. He put the ball into the air throughout last season, including a 46-yard pass to Marrs against Worth County in the state title game.
Poppa might not throw the ball as much this season, but Standerford feels confident in his speed.
“If we were a team that wanted to throw it 50 times a game, he’d complete 40 of 45 passes a game,” Standerford said. “He’s also great at running the ball. A lot of times last year he’d come around the edge and just find that whole perfectly.”
Many of the mentioned returners will also play support on the defensive side of the ball, something Mound City saw success with. In the first five games last year, the team allowed six points.
Opponents scored on the Panthers through each of the remaining eight games, including the state title game. With this in mind, it is hard to estimate where Mound City may be as a team this year.
“It’s all going to depend on how we prepare week to week,” Standerford said. “We don’t care about the rest of the season, we just got to win this week.”
The Panthers take their first steps towards a potential state championship repeat as they host Platte Valley at 7 p.m.
“During the summer, it is all we can think about,” Hopkins said. “Getting ready to play back on that field again.”