The Newton High School football team will have a lot of experience back — 15 letterwinners, including eight offensive and seven defensive starters.
The Railers also will have one of the toughest schedules in Class 5A, with four of the first five opponents racking up a combined record of 46-5.
Chris Jaax begins his fifth season as the Railer head coach. He is 10-26 at Newton and in his head coaching career.
Jaax is assisted by James Pfannestiel, Dylan Delk, Fred Schmidt, Max Switzer, Patrick Watson, Jon Adkins, Evan Gilbert and Adrian Lujano.
Newton was 3-6 last season, 2-4 in Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League Division I play. Newton fell to Emporia 41-29 in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
Returning starters for the Railers include Aiden Kendal (6-1, 285, sr., OL), Ben Schmidt (6-1, 180, sr., QB), Kenyon Forest (5-7, 185, sr., RB-DL), Peyton Maxwell (6-0, 165, sr., WR), Dehann Nelson (5-11, 200, sr., LB), Davis Mick (5-10, 205, sr., DL), Ricky Parga (5-9, 215, so., DL), Luke Boston (5-10, 180, sr., LB), Nick Antonowich (5-10, 190, sr., LB), Sam Claassen (5-10, 210, sr., OL), Braiden Botterweck (6-3, 215, sr., TE), Max Ruth (6-2, 200, sr., TE), Kody Diringer (5-10, 250 sr., OL) and Jody Perry (6-2, 200, sr., DL).
Kendal, Maxwell and Nelson were all second-team All-AVCTL I selections. Schmidt and Forest both earned all-league honorable mention.
Forest rushed for 422 yards on 131 carries last season with two touchdowns. Schmidt hit 154 of 251 passes for 1,881 yards with 12 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Maxwell had 59 catches for 824 yards and nine touchdowns. Antonowich had 7.5 tackles for a loss. Nelson had 55 total tackles.
"We are returning QB, RB, WR, two TEs and three OLs," Jaax said. "Aiden Kendall and Sam Claassen will be three-year starters on the offensive line. Aiden is one of the hardest-working kids I have coached. An excellent leader who is devoted to making his teammates better and working with them and pushing them in the offseason. Ben Schmidt threw for 1,881 yards in 7 1/2 games last year. He could have a huge year with a season under his belt. Kenyon Forest stepped into RB as a sophomore after preseason injury to starter and has grown a lot as a RB. Peyton Maxwell led the AVCTL I in receiving yards and receptions last year and is looking to build on that.
"(On defense,) we are returning four DLs and three LBs as starters from last year’s team. Kenyon Forest, DL, played both ways the second half of the season and made a big impact on defense when he became a starter. DL Davis Mick and LB Nick Antonowich will be three-year starters. Dehann Nelson has a natural instinct as a linebacker and should have a big year for us."
Other players looking to make an impact include Jonah Remsberg (jr., DB), Jaxon Brackeen (sr., WR), Rio Gomez (so., OL-DL), Luke Hirsh (jr., DB), Isaac Klug (so., RB-DB) and Collin Hershberger (so., K).
"Collin Hershberger kicked off for us as a freshmen," Jaax said. "He is going to be a really good, extremely hard-working kid — a soccer player, as well. Dehann Nelson returns as our punter from last year, he made honorable mention all-league."
Newton will have some changes from the schedule from previous years. Maize South has replaced Salina South in AVCTL I play this season. Newton has added Andover Central and Goddard in nonleague play. It will be the first meeting for the Railers against Maize South and Andover Central. Newton last played Goddard in 2017.
"Derby is Derby," Jaax said "Maize and Maize South should be both be really good again. Campus, Hutch and Salina South were all young last year and should improve a lot."
Derby is the defending AVCTL I and Class 6A state champion and on a 26-game winning streak. Maize is a Class 5A state semifinalist from last season. Maize South was a Class 5A state quarterfinalist last season, falling to Maize in the playoffs. South also was the AVCTL II defending champion. Andover Central is the Class 4A defending state runner-up.
"We have a lot of returning starters and the best summer participation we have had," Jaax said. "We have the toughest schedule in the area. Four of our first five games were a combined 46-5 last year with a state championship, runner-up and semifinalist."
All games 7 p.m. unless noted
Sept. 4 Andover Central
Sept. 11 Derby
Sept. 18 @ Maize
Sept. 25 @ Hutchinson
Oct. 2 Maize South
Oct. 9 Goddard
Oct. 16 @ Salina South
Oct. 23 @ Campus
Oct. 30 Playoff First Round TBA
Nov. 6 Regionals TBA
Nov. 13 Sectionals TBA
Nov. 20 Sub-State TBA
Nov. 28 State @ Carnie Smith Stadium, Pittsburg 11 a.m.