MONTICELLO — Cully Welter is in an unusual position as he tries to become the first Monticello football coach to lead the Sages to the playoffs five consecutive seasons.
He’ll seek to accomplish that with four returning starters on offense and five on defense.
“We graduated a big senior class (17) and most had big roles,” Welter said.
As he welcomes a new year, however, he has a roster which features 18 seniors.
Some of those veterans already have spent plenty of time on the field. Tight end Colton Gibson is seeking his fourth football letter.
Brendan Menacher and Ben Wilson will be third-year starters. Gibson and two-year letterman Dylan Benson suffered knee injuries last year. A two-way regular last fall, Benson may focus on offense as a tackle as he continues his recovery.
Offensively, the challenges are huge. The top rusher, passer and receiver from 2012’s 8-3 team have all graduated. Welter believes senior Dylan Knisley can be a go-to back like the graduated Ryan Donohue, who gained 1,752 yards last fall.
“Dylan has been in the shadow of Donohue, but he always had great vision and great cutting ability,” Welter said. “Our overall team speed should be good.”
Former backup quarterback Sam Parrish — now a senior — is one of the squad members, Welter said, who’ve made the biggest strides since last season ended.
Defensively, the top two tacklers return, linebacker Clay Becker and safety Josh Burton, who will sit out the Friday opener against Central A&M in Moweaqua.
“We have three kids (defensively) who’ve started since they were sophomores,” Welter said. “Our front seven in pretty solid.”
Becker and Peter Cecava will be two of the linebackers. The other linebackers will come from a group that includes Ryne Bundy, Matt Justus and Carter Ness.