By Mark Schremmer, for Kpreps.com
Posted: August 29, 2012 - 12:06 AM
There are days at practice when Wichita Heights coach Rick Wheeler feels good about his team’s progress. Yet there are others that make him think his Falcons have a long ways to go.
Such is the life as a coach of a young football team. After advancing to three consecutive Class 6A state championship games, the Falcons enter the 2012 season with only two returning starters on each side of the ball.
“We haven’t been this young in a long time,” Wheeler said. “People can say they’re young, but we really are young. This team has a chance to be really competitive before it’s all said and done, but we’re not there yet. We have some work to get there.
“We have the trials and tribulations of being young. Consistency is the concern. We’re not able to have good practices over and over.”
Ready or not, the Falcons will certainly have their hands full in Week 1. Wichita Heights, the fifth-ranked team in 6A, will face Class 5A’s top-ranked Bishop Carroll Golden Eagles on Thursday night at Wichita South’s Carpenter Stadium.
“They’re a good program,” Wheeler said. “They are well coached and have great athletes. We will be tested.”
Chris Reed – no relation to Matt – takes over at quarterback after working under center with the JV and as a wide receiver for the varsity last season.
“Chris Reed is an incredibly talented and athletic young man,” Wheeler said. “He’s doing a great job of running the offense. He’s making his best strides at trying to be a leader.”
Since Chris Reed was a receiver last season, offensive lineman Ricardo Gonzales (6-2, 245, Sr.) is the Falcons’ only true returning starter on offense.
Bishop Carroll’s offense is quite the opposite. The Eagles return eight offensive starters from a team that advanced to the 5A state semifinals and finished with a 10-2 record.
Leading the way is All-State quarterback Zeke Palmer (6-1, 205, Sr.), who passed for more than 2,100 yards and rushed for more than 500 yards last season. The Eagles also return three starters on the offensive line, as well as running backs Jalen Hernandez and Denzel Goolsby. Hernandez rushed for more than 700 yards last season, while Goolsby ran for nearly 300.
“Zeke is a special player,” Wheeler said. “They have a lot of great athletes over there. They’re using Goolsby at wide receiver. He’s a really good player to get the ball to. When you play Carroll, they’re always going to be an efficient offense.”
Heights will try to combat Carroll’s potent offense with All-State defensive lineman Aderio Ammons and free safety Justus Moreland. Besides those two, the Falcons will have several players on defense who will be getting their first major minutes at the varsity level.
“Playing Carroll in the first game will help let us know where we’re at,” Wheeler said.
Wichita Heights entered as the more experienced team last season and beat the Eagles 45-14 in the 2011 opener.
“History shows that this game doesn’t determine success for the rest of the season,” Wheeler said. “Neither team will be labeled for this loss. In 2010, we got by them and we both ended up in state championship games.”