The Newton High School football team will get a strong test to open the season, hosting Andover Central at 7 p.m. Friday at Fischer Field.
Central is coming off an 11-2 season, falling to Bishop Miege 68-7 in the Class 4A state finals. The only other loss for the Jaguars came against Maize South 24-17.
Newton finished 3-6 last season.
"(The pre-season) went pretty good," Newton coach Chris Jaax said. "The kids are working pretty hard. The seniors are doing a good job of leadership. They have really invested a lot. They really have. Central is state runner-up in 4A. They just had a kid transfer in from Wichita Northwest. They are going to have some pretty talented players. They are a well-coached team. They are a good opponent."
Central graduated a 2,200-yard passer. The top returning candidate behind center is junior Chase White, who hit eight of 12 passes for 100 yards with two interceptions. The leading rusher returning for the Jags is Jacob Rees, who had 401 yards rushing on 84 carries and four touchdowns. Rees also is the leading tackler returning with 78 total tackles.
The leading returning receiver is Kyle Kohlman, who had 19 catches for 208 yards.
Jaax expects Central to run a spread offense.
"They like to run the ball inside the tackles," Jaax said. "They will try to stretch the field. They have some really good receivers. With this new receiver they’ve got, we can’t give up the big plays against them. He’s got a couple of FCS offers and just joined the team this week. We have to make them move the ball down the field."
In light of all the COVID-19 related disruptions to the pre-season routine, Jaax said the team has been pretty resilient.
"I think the the kids have handled it pretty well," Jaax said. "There are a lot of different things you have to do to take precautions. Things were limited over the summer. They didn’t have an opportunity to do some camps. They have a pretty good attitude about trying to do their best with what they can do."
The sole injury Jaax reports is linebacker Luke Boston. Jaax expects him back for week 2.
AROUND THE AV-CTL I
(all games this week are non-league)
Derby @ Mill Valley
The Panthers open the season as two-time Class 6A state champion and on a 26-game winning streak. The Panthers are heavily favored to win Class 6A again this season.
Mill Valley is the defending Class 5A state champion, beating then unbeaten Wichita Northwest 40-31 in the state finals.
Great Bend @ Maize South
Maize South makes its debut in AV-CTL I play against Great Bend. Maize South was 10-1 last season, falling in the Class 5A quarterfinals against crosstown rival, and now league rival, Maize 28-0. Great Bend was 5-5 last year, falling to Wichita Northwest 48-14 in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
Andover @ Maize
Maize is coming off a 10-2 season, falling to Wichita Northwest 80-42 in the Class 5A semifinals. Andover finished 3-7 last season. After a first-round upset of Salina Central 28-7, the Trojans fell in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs to Bishop Carroll 35-7.
Campus @ Salina Central
Campus is coming off a 1-8 season last season, falling to then unbeaten Dodge City 34-13 in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. Salina Central finished last season 5-4, falling in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs to Andover 28-7. Central moves to AV-CTL II play this season.
Salina South @ McPherson
Salina South is coming off a 2-6 season, falling to Maize South 31-6 in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. McPherson was 11-1 last season, falling to Andover Central in the Class 4A semifinals 7-0.