GRANT CITY, Mo. — Despite the graduation of six all-state players last season, including two on the offensive line, 2018 state runner-up Worth County doesn’t expect to slow down after two straight championship runs.

In its first glimpse of preseason action, the team swept jamboree opponents King City, Pattonsburg and Albany in a convincing showing that could waiver the skepticism of any potential naysayer.

“It’s just what we expect as a team. There’s probably some people who don’t quite think we are gonna get there, but I think everyone on this team believes that we have the talent to get there,” linebacker Reed McIntyre said. “I think really the pressure comes from ourselves as much as anyone else.”

Atypical for the Tigers, the team will return just two seniors. In past seasons they’ve had the luxury of large senior classes forging the path to success, but now the fate of the team will fall on the shoulders of several new starters.

“Every year, there’s got to be guys that step up in new roles, wherever that may be. This is two years in a row that we’ve lost a pretty core group of seniors,” coach Chris Healy said. “This year, we have two seniors back who are returning, which isn’t very many, so it’s going to take leadership from some guys who haven’t been in that role before.”

Among those stepping into a bigger role is junior Andrew Alarcon, who played in the backfield alongside first team all-state running back Caleb Parman last year. He will take on the feature running back spot.

“I’ve got more pressure on my shoulders here now,” Alarcon said. “I haven’t really changed positions, but I’ll definitely be running the ball more this year.”

On the topic of the summer as a whole, Alarcon has confidence in how the team has prepared for the start of the regular season.

“We’ve had a lot of guys step up this offseason, been hitting the weights and have been getting a lot bigger and better, been bonding pretty well. It’s been intense and pressurized,” Alarcon said. “There’s pressure, but we’ve been putting in the work we need to to go back.”

Alarcon also praised the arm of sophomore quarterback Aidan Gladstone, a fresh face set to start under center this season.

“Gladstone saw some snaps for us last year, mainly at the JV level,” Healy said. “So it’s gonna be a learning curve, but he’s had a good summer so hopefully he’s ready to go.”

As has been the case for the past few seasons, Healy emphasized the challenge that comes with playing in the Grand River Conference.

“We open up with South Holt, who will be really good and have a really good quarterback. And then it’s conference play,” Healy said. “It’s tough in the GRC, so we gotta be ready to go and we’ve got to get better in every single way. I could name our whole schedule and it’s full of teams where if you don’t come out ready to play, they’ll put it to you.”

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