Head Coach: Chris Shields, second year at Joplin
2011 Recap: 3-8, 3-4 in Ozark Conference
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 4 on defense
Key Returning Players: Gabe Sachetta (QB), Chris Payton-Barba (RB), Adam St. Peter (LB), Lane Freeborn (LB)
JOPLIN, MO - Despite only a handful of practices for Joplin, the Eagles football team is weeks ahead of where it was this time last year.
"It's just football, just focused on football," Joplin Head Coach Chris Shields said. "We're happy about that."
Life, destruction and repair were the focus for many of the Joplin Eagles last season, not football. Now, a year removed from the EF5, May 22 tornado, the Eagles are ready to play.
"We're excited," Coach Shields said, "we have a lot of kids back who helped us last year."
One player to keep an eye on is three-year, starting running back Chris Payton-Barba. Of his 1,030 rushing yards in 2011, he saved his best game for the best opponents. Laker-country will remember his 245 yards and four touchdowns at Camdenton for many years.
Once again, quarterback Gabe Sachetta will be taking the snaps behind an offensive line that is mostly still together. Along with a new group of receivers, the Eagles are using wrist-bands to help with call playing from the sidelines.
Like the "O-Line" the defense has all of its starters returning up front. But the secondary is a new group.
"We'll be young on defense," Coach Shields said, "but they're hungry."
And hungry for winning football. When it comes to mental toughness and character, you have to put the Joplin Eagles at the top of the list.
"Proud how our kids handled the adversity with last season," Coach Shields said, "now we're ready to move on."
Joplin opens the season August 24th hosting Glendale.