By RICK PETERSON
Editor's note: TopSports.news has finished its tour of preseason football practices at all 10 Shawnee County high schools and will post preview stories over the coming days leading into the opening games of the 2023 season Sept. 1.
Considering some of the players Rossville graduated from the group that claimed two straight Class 2A state titles in 2020 and 2021, Derick Hammes' Bulldawgs' turned in a very respectable 5-5 record a year ago.
But 5-5 isn't up to the Bulldawgs' extremely lofty standards and Rossville will be looking for much more this fall.
"Obviously it didn't feel like we want it to, so in that regard we feel like we've got to take a step forward,'' said Hammes, who has led Rossville to five state titles over the past nine seasons.
Hammes said he feels like this year's team, particularly this year's senior class, is determined to help the Bulldawgs return to the level of success they have grown accustomed to.
"I think they're motivated to and that's always a challenge from year to year is that when you go into our gym we have all the banners and things like that and we tell our kids, 'Make your mark as a senior,' '' Hammes said. "And how we recognize that is pretty cool and I think each one of our senior class tries to make sure they live up to that and they try to make their mark and put something on our walls.''
The Bulldawgs return six starters on offense and five on defense to build this year's team around.
Among the returners are senior TopSports.news All-Shawnee County Top 22 offensive and defensive lineman Barrett Lietz as well as returning senior quarterback/linebacker Camden Horak and junior offensive lineman/linebacker Brock Bush, who both received All-Shawnee County honorable mention last fall.
Other returning starters include junior running back/strong safety Seth Catron, junior running back/cornerback Tayson Horak and sophomore wide receiver Jack Donovan.
Top newcomers include seniors John McGrath (offensive/defensive lineman), Avery Crosswhite (offensive lineman/linebacker) and juniors Kameron Badura (wide receiver/defensive back), Jared Cunningham (offensive lineman/linebacker), Mahki Jackson (wide receiver/defensive back), Jordan Johnson (offensive/defensive lineman), Will Koch (offensive lineman/defensive end), Logan Kufahl (running back/linebacker) and Saint Mildren (offensive lineman/defensive end) and sophomores Conner Bush (running back/linebacker), Ayden Crosswhite (offensive lineman/linebacker), Andre Johnson (running back/linebacker), Cameron Miller ((wide receiver/defensive back), Canann Mitchell (quarterback/strong safety) and Paxton Willet (running back/linebacker).
Hammes said he was pleased with the work the Bulldawgs put in over the offseason to get ready for the 2023 campaign.
"Summer-wise I think we had all but two of our kids meet our goal so collectively our kids were here and the effort was really good,'' Hammes said. "I think we put an emphasis on the strength part of it this year and our numbers tell us that was good as well.''
The Bulldawgs will open their season at home Sept. 1 against St. Marys.
2023 football schedule
September -- 1 St. Marys, 8 Riley County, 15 Hayden, 22 at Atchison County, 29 Silver Lake.
October -- 6 at Holton, 13 at Pleasant Ridge, 20 Maur Hill, 27 Playoffs.
Next up: Seaman.