Marceline has now faced Westran in the district championship for the past four seasons. Last year was the lowlight for the Tigers in that series, as they were trounced at home 42-16 on a brisk, early November evening.
Westran's avenging its loss in Huntsville from four weeks earlier proved to be the final game for Marceline head coach Greg Hough. Hough, who won Lewis & Clark conference championships in both of his seasons with Marceline, accepted the head coaching job in Boonville in February.
Mark Ross filled the voids of both Marceline head coach and athletic director, and uprooted himself from a former gig as athletic director at Horton High School in Kansas. Ross formerly worked under Charlie Weis as a graduate assistant at Kansas University.
Although Hough ran some intricate schemes at Marceline, Ross said that the transition has not been all too difficult on either him or his players.
"It's a great situation to step into," Ross said. "The boys expect to win, and the community expects us to win, and that's a better situation than one where there's not a lot of hope. The boys have all been great this summer in trying to get ready for everything this fall. We've carried over a lot of the stuff some of the previous teams were doing, so we're trying to keep the learning curve as small as we can."
The Tigers have a bevy of key losses from last season's team, including a majority of their offensive production. Though Marceline returns quarterback Chase Billups, it loses receivers Levi Terrell and Trey Hamilton. Terrell was eight yards from breaking the 1,000-yard mark in receiving, and Hamilton was heavily targeted before his year was ruined early with a midseason leg injury. Both Terrell and Hamilton were also imperative in the defensive secondary.
The Tigers also lose their two leading rushers. Rylan Chrisman ended his career with a magical season, rushing for greater than 1,600 yards and receiving for another 112. Hunter Teeter, the third-down bruiser, also graduated, and finished his final high school season just shy of 700 all-purpose yards.
Multitalented Clayton Stallo will return, and was second behind Chrisman in all-purpose yards last season. Stallo manufactured 826 yards of offense and added another 250 return yards.
Defensively, the Tigers will miss Trevor Ganaway and John Stelplugh on the defensive line. The two combined for 108 tackles, and Ganaway posted a mesmerizing 39 tackles for loss.
Marceline, however, returns 16 seniors in total. Ross said that the 12th graders have done a great job of keeping all of the younger guys committed.
"A lot of things will be similar, and we kept some terminology the same, but there will always be some differences," Ross said. "My thing coming in here is that I want to have a small sample of things we can be really good at. We'll continue to build off of what the boys know and try to stay consistent."
Marceline hosts Scotland County on Friday. Ross said he expects a physical matchup, and that keeping senior Scotland County quarterback Will Fromm in check will be paramount. Scotland County finished 6-5 last season.