Cubs ready for football turf wars

Saturday, August 15, 2015
Monett quarterback Ian Meyer feeds the ball to senior Cameron Witt during the Cubs' summer camp. Jared Lankford/

Uhl seeks to make mark at the helm of the team

The 2014-2015 football year was unforgettable for the Monett Cubs.

For the second time in the last three seasons, they advanced to the Class 3 semifinal and thrilled the local fan base.

Monett senior linebacker John Saunders looks for someone to hit during the Cubs' summer camp. Jared Lankford/

However, the celebration after the season was tempered a bit with the departure of 22 letterman and 16 starters, due to graduation. To add insult to injury, Chad Depée and Jim Genzler, head coach and defensive coordinator, respectively, were plucked away by the Ozark School District.

To fill the void, Monett went south and pulled former assistant coach Derrek Uhl away from rival Cassville. Uhl then persuaded Kyle Wood, a top defensive assistant, to defect from Cassville to lead Monett's defense.

With the hiring of Uhl, Monett was able to make a smooth transition into the offseason and immediately concentrate on making a run to the dome.

"We will have a lot of new faces on both sides of the ball after graduating 20-plus seniors," Uhl said. "We will be young as far as experience and will need to grow up fast as the season gets started. The Big 8 will be very competitive this year, and each week, there will be great matchups.

"We will take it one week at a time and I know myself and the kids are excited about the upcoming season."

Uhl said offensively, the Cubs should be more balanced than they have been in recent years.

"This year, we have some height at the receiver position and some guys that, when asked upon, can carry the ball multiple times a game," he said.

Senior Brett Gollhofer leads the Cubs this year up front. Gollhofer is a two-year starter at center and earned Honorable Mention Big 8 Conference accolades last season.

"Last season is over, and that team is gone," Gollhofer said. "This team is capable of and will do great things. We are not going to ride on last year's coat tails.

"This is a team of guys who want nothing more than to continue to push through our ceiling. I've got all the confidence in the world in my brothers, and I very much look forward to this coming season."

Cameron Witt, another senior, has the most experience of the returning running backs. Witt scored six touchdowns for Monett last season, and Uhl expects him to touch the ball a lot this year.

Monett has high hopes for junior Michael Branch, a 5-11, 220-pound running back. Branch showed great promise in limited varsity action last season. Monett and Uhl would very much like to see Branch becoming a dominating and bruising tailback.

"This year's offensive line returns one starter from last year but has the potential to be a physical bunch," Uhl said. "I think this year, it's going to be exciting to see what guys step up on the offensive side of the ball."

With so many unknowns on offense, Monett will look to form its identity on defense.

"The defense will have to set the tone for our team until our offense gets going," Uhl said. "We will continue to be an aggressive defense and have some strong senior leaders on defense returning. Several seniors have waited there turn to start, and I am excited for them and know they will have a great season"

Seniors Eric Welch, Dillon Welch, Gunnar Holloway and Taylor Dutton will be counted on to make a splash in their first season as full-time starters.

Monett returns four defensive linemen with starting experience in Gabe Pryor, Alex Turner, Bryce Logan and Branch.

John Saunders and Witt will anchor the linebacking and secondary cores, respectively. Monett also returns junior Mason Swearingen at corner, who started all 14 games as a sophomore.

Monett opens the season on Friday at Seneca. The home opener is Sept. 4 against Lamar.

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