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The time is now

Vandercook Lake, with an abundance of seniors and starters, takes aim at playoffs

By Mike Moore

JTV Sports Writer

Jackson — It’s been long enough. In fact, talking to Vandercook Lake football coach Steve Wolvin, it’s long over due.

The fall of 1996 was the last time the Jayhawks found themselves playing in the football postseason.

Since that time, there have been some close calls, a 6-3 finish in 1997 before the automatic-qualifier rule was established.

In 2008 the guys went 5-4.

Last year’s squad started the year 5-2, only to end 5-4 and on the outside looking in.

“It’s a goal every single year,” Wolvin said of reaching the playoffs. “I mean, that’s why you play high school football, to earn a spot in that tournament. I think we’ve let a few opportunities to do that slip a way the past few years.”

But the past is just that, and all focus now for the guys in red and white is on this year and the opportunity this team has.

And it could be a pretty special one.

The Jayhawks’ roster is made up of 17 seniors, the most Wolvin has had in his five years with the program.

What’s more, eight starters on the offensive side and defensive side of the ball are back. So there’s senior talent along with veteran experience.

“If you don’t practice hard and work to get better, it won’t matter,” Wolvin cautioned. “But these guys are doing that. We’ve had great work so far. They understand things. They’ve been in this system for five years now.”

As Wolvin alluded to, just being older won’t make the team better.

Last year’s offense averaged just 23 points per game, and just 14 in the team’s four losses.

Nolan Hancock, who played last year in limited action against Homer while completing eight passes for 150 yards, takes over as the full-time starter at quarterback.

“We expect to score some points,” Wolvin said of Hancock and the entire offense. “We have some good depth at the skilled positions.”

As for the defense, which allowed only 23.5 points per game in 2014, well, Wolvin said it has to be more of a team effort.

“Last year Malik Wilks made just about every tackle (143) on defense and special teams,” Wolvin said with a laugh. “It has to be more of a team defense this year. I think we’ve got guys that matured and understand their positions better, and we expect the entire group to be better.”

The Jayhawks officially kick things off Friday at Springport, in what should be a tough battle to begin what should be nine tough battles.

“The league and schedule isn’t getting any easier,” Wolvin said.

But the objective couldn’t be clearer.

After so many close calls, and some forgettable years, it’s time the Jayhawks had a taste of Week 10.

“I think what may keep this group in line is they understand how quickly it’s going to go by,” Wolvin said. “They want to mark their legacy right now. They have to live in the moment.”

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