Head coach Jordan Echer enters his second year as the head coach of the Bluestem Lions football team, and has changed the culture of the program. In his second year, he is continuing to notice differences in his athletes from a season ago as his team finished 2-7 in his first year.

“Chemistry-wise, I think we’ve noticed a difference. I’ve had some people in the school saying they notice a difference in the way the guys interact with each other,” said Echer.

“Offensively, it’s going to be good. Our returning guys are going to be more comfortable. We’re still trying to take steps in the right direction and also get our community more involved. As far as our team, they know what to expect. Our energy has been a lot better this year. We had 11 kids with 100 percent attendance at weights this summer. I think culture-wise, they’re starting to understand what we want to do.”

Coy Moran will start at quarterback for the Lions. The senior QB/linebacker will begin his second year taking snaps for the lions.

Blake Bevan enters his senior year at running back for the Lions. Bevan has not been able to play since his freshman year as a member of the Augusta football team, where he saw some variety time. As a sophomore, Bevan was not eligible to play due to transfer rules. Before his junior season, Bevan injured his knee during the team scrimmage, causing him to miss the entire 2016 season. In his senior season, everyone in the program is excited to see what he will be able to accomplish for the Lions .

Moran, Bevan, and Cole Weber, an offensive lineman who also transferred from Augusta, will be the team captions this season.

“All three had 100% attendance at summer weights and have been great leaders.” said Echer.

Nick Laidler will be another impact returner at wide receiver/safety. Laidler had three picks last year and broke a school record for longest kickoff return with a 98-yard return against Belle Plaine.

The Bluestem coaches have put a larger emphasis on defense this season.

“On the field I would say I see our defense improving. Our staff spent the spring and summer talking to other coaches about defense. We'll be transitioning to a new defense this season,” said Echer.

“That was our emphasis all summer, and will be all year. Our other focus is getting our younger kids involved. We played 6 freshmen last year on Varsity, a couple of them started. With our numbers we will have freshmen playing varsity once again.”

The Lions have been working hard in the offseason to prepare for the season.

“We started an off season winter conditioning program and a powerlifting team last winter. Our players that didn't compete in winter sports participated in both of those. During the summer our kids did the usual summer weights program. we also played in a 7-on-7 league at Augusta, and we had a chance to go to Labette County to scrimmage other teams this summer. Last summer we weren't able to scrimmage due to low numbers.”

The Lions open will travel to Humboldt to open their season. Kickoff is at 7 pm on Friday, Sep. 1.