Pirates look to contend for conference, district title
Boonville Pirates football coach Greg Hough hopes the last two years hold true for the 2020 season.
After finishing 6-4 overall in 2018, the Pirates came back the following season to go one better at 7-4 while advancing to the semifinals in the district playoffs.
This season with 61 players suited out for the 2020 season, the Pirates return five starters on the offensive side of the football and eight back on defense under third-year coach Greg Hough.
While finishing 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the Tri-County Conference in 2019, Hough said the overall outlook on the season is control what they can control and play the best to their ability.
“We want to compete for a district title, that’s our No. 1 goal to put ourselves in that game,”Hough said. “We know every week is going to matter, more so than ever not so much for district placement and conference success but every week is going to matter now because we hope we get the next week. Our kids have done really well with all the challenges that we faced and Ifeel like they have showed me enough things and come out on the other side successful. We are doing something very good that I think when it comes time to play, we are going to be successful there, too.”
Of course it’s no secret that although Boonville improved record-wise from the year before, there was a feeling that something was missing.
Losses to Blair Oaks, Hallsville and Southern Boone didn’t help matters going into the district playoffs. But the Pirates made the most of the situation by beating Oak Grove in the opening round of the district playoffs before losing to the Odessa Bulldogs, who eventually went on to win the Class 3 state title.
Hough said Blair Oaks is still the king in the TCC until somebody can beat them.
“That crown probably sits pretty good on their head when they return the kids that they return,”Hough said. “I think a lot of people are probably jealous but to me jealousy is a good thing because that’s why drives me.
“I want our program to be just like that, and the thing is I think we’re getting closer and closer. That’s the team on top for me and that’s the team I want to beat and I think each year we keep getting closer and closer to them not only between the white lines but outside, and I think in the long run that will help us.”
After that, Hough mentioned Southern Boone as probably the next team with what they are returning. He said Trent Tracy and his staff have obviously beaten Boonville the last two years, although the Pirates have had the better talent going into the game.
Hallsville is also up there with head coach Justin Conyers at the helm, Hough said. He said Conyers has won everywhere he has coached but will have some challenges this season because they lost a lot.
As for Boonville in the TCC, Hough said he feels his team can be right up there at the top.
“To me the key is more mental this year than anything,” Hough said. “We had to simplify things that we do just in preparation just in how this COVID-19 thing works out. You have to simplify things and make sure 1-61 can help us in a pinch if it happens.
“Some of the stuff that you will see Friday night is almost a simplified version, and that’s where the mentality of the game of football has to be strong with our kids because we are not going to try and fool anybody. We have to keep things really simple so that multiple kids can play different positions.”
As for the offense, Hough said the Pirates will mostly be in the gun. He said while the Pirates are going to be less offensively, in a sense they will actually be doing more.
Hough said he also wouldn’t put a number on the times the Pirates will run versus pass this season. He said whatever works to expose the opponents weakness will be what Boonville does offensively.
“The quarterback situation is a little different than it has been,” Hough said. “In my first two years here, I had Nick Ferrari and he wasn’t necessarily a run threat kid, but now I have Colby Caton and Jamesian McKee-who are both different style kids. Colby and Jamesian were neck and neck this summer at quarterback until COVID hit.
“Of course we needed Jamesian at receiver when Charlie Bronakowski and Luke Green were both out and he did a fantastic job there. Colby was also getting better each day at quarterback, so it worked out well in the long run.”
With Caton now positioned at quarterback and McKee as the backup, Hough said because of the situation everybody is in now the backup to both Caton and McKee is probably going to be senior Lane West.
“Colby is ultimately what all the freshmen want to be,”Hough said. “All the freshmen know who Colby is because he started last year as a freshman, so it’s really easy if you want to be successful in our program. Just watch how Colby practices, watch how he interacts with his teammates and how he interacts with his coaches.
“The cool thing about that is the kids see that and that’s how you build good culture and that’s how you build successful teams, and then you’ve got 55 Colby Caton’s that are hard working and doing everything coach says. That’s kind of where we’re at right now.”
At running back, senior Andrew Wiser hopes to pick up where last year’s do everything running back Avian Thomas left off after rushing for over 1,800 yards and scoring 26 touchdowns.
Hough said there are a lot of good secrets on the team that a lot of people probably don’t know about within the inner circle. He said he thinks Wiser is one of the best kept secrets if he stays healthy.
Wiser rushed for over 153 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns before he went down with injury.
As for the backup at running back, Hough said it will be a mix of bodies in seniors Spencer Steakley, Lane West and D.J. Wesolak. Hough, however, calls West and Wesolak more as athletes because they will play numerous positions such as slot, wing, fullback and tight end.
At receiver, Hough will look to another mix of players in seniors Charlie Bronakowski, West, Wesolak and McKee. He said those are the first four, followed by juniors Luke Green and Dawan Lomax.
“We are going to be hard to defend,” Hough said. “We could throw the ball up there and just have these guys go after it because of their size.”
Bronakowski, West and Wesolak are all 6-4 and 6-5 while McKeee comes in a 6-3.
Bronakowski also had respectable numbers last year while averaging 14.1 yards per catch. Bronakowski finished the season with 11 catches for 127 yards and one touchdown.
On the offensive line, seniors Gaige Offineer and Saylor Marquez return at right tackle and right guard, respectively. Junior Peyton Hahn, meanwhile, will take over the center duties while seniors Landon Williams and Dustyn Taylor line up at left guard and left tackle, respectively.
Hough said Hahn is his sleeper this year while Williams is one of the cooler stories of the summer. “He was a traditional tight end kid for us but I told him I really like to see him try offensive line. He stepped up to that and every day he’s gotten better. Dustyn Taylor is another big kind of surprise story, who has done a good job.”
Hough also mentioned Matt Conrow, Max Eckerle, Cameron Ridgeway, Daireus Brady and Chandler Stonecipher as linemen who could step in and do the job.
“We have about 10 guys that I could throw out and know what they are doing,” Hough said.
On defense, Hough said the Pirates will be very, very fast and athletic and will run a base 4-2-5.
The defense is also where Boonville will return the bulk of its starters back from last year, especially at end, linebacker and the secondary.
“We will be multiple on defense,”Hough said. “We’re trying to build some depth at the corner spot just so we can give players like Colby don’t have to player every down both ways. It would also be nice to give Andrew a break at linebacker, so that’s why we are trying to add depth at those positions.”
Hough said Wesolak and Lane will be the top two defensive ends. After that Hahn and Williams will be the next two in line to play end, Hough said.
The interior line will consists of Marquez, Offineer, Conrow and senior Kaullin Kosnopfal.
“We’ve got some pretty good depth,” Hough said. “What I mean by that is that I know I can put some kids out there and they know what they are doing.”
Of course Hough also knows he has two pretty good players at defensive end to stop the outside run this season in West and Wesolak. West, a second team all-conference linebacker in 2019, finished third on the team in tackles with 59 solo stops and 27 assisted tackles for a total of 86. West also had 19 tackles for loss and nine sacks. Wesolak, meanwhile, finished with 30 solo stops, 16 tackles for losses for a total of 46 along with seven tackles for loss and five sacks.
At linebacker, senior Harper Stock returns at the inside position after leading the team in tackles last year with 133. Stock also had 14 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Stock also earned honorable-mention all-conference as an athlete for his play on the defensive side of the ball in 2019.
Hough said Stock and West are both inside while Wiser and Steakley are listed as outside linebackers.
Other players that will see playing time at linebacker this season are seniors Evan Gonzalez and Peyton Taylor and junior Nash Mckenzie.
In the secondary, Hough said McKee, Caton, Lomax and Hunter Pethan will all see playing time at cornerback. Caton started in all 11 games last year for the Pirates, finishing with 39 total tackles. Caton also had one interception, one fumble recovery and one caused fumble. Lomax played in eight games and finished with 13 tackles while McKee saw action in five games and had five tackles.
Hough said Lomax and Luke Green will also see playing time at safety.
On special teams, senior Charlie Bronakowski will return at punter after earning all-conference and all-district honors in 2019. Bronakowski averaged 37.2 yards per punt in 11 games for the Pirates. However this year, Hough said Bronakowski will handle the extra point attempts and kickoffs as well.
West will return as the long snapper.
The Pirates will open the 2020 season on Friday, August 28 at home against the Pleasant Hill Roosters, starting at 7 p.m.
Boonville won last year’s meeting against the Roosters 19-14.
Hough said he doesn’t know anything about Pleasant Hill only that they have a new coach. “I know he was the defensive coordinator at Belton and was a former player at Odessa,” Hough said. “He also played at Central Methodist in Fayette. I don’t know what he is going to do, so this is about as old school football as it gets before Jamboree time. It is what it is. I know the kids are ready. I’m sure they are a little nervous, but they are ready to battle. They said let’s go.”
Of course Hough also hopes that they can get a full season in despite the threat of COVID-19.
“I hope so,” Hough said. “I’m excited and I’m proud of our kids. This is my best team overall, so I hope we have our season. I think we’ve done the right things, so it’s going to be interesting. Whatever happens, or whatever we finish record-wise, Iam going to be happy with these kids because of what they’ve accomplished.”