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University of St. Mary

The past two seasons for Coach Lance Hinson’s Spires have been fairly successful, posting winning records and being in contention for the conference title in each year.  One big reason for this success has been the potent, gun slinging style of offense that has become the trademark in Leavenworth.  The focal point of that unit has been QB Mike Keese, the first team all-conference leader of that potent offense.  Unfortunately for the Spires, Mike has graduated and left some huge shoes to fill.  Coach Hinson believes that there are “guys here that are more than capable of handling that role”.  There’s no question that the cupboard is not bare by any means on offense- specifically in the skill positions. USM may have the best group of receivers in the conference.  Seniors Ronnie Cooper, Plano, TX and Jerrell Young, Portland, OR, both had monster years in 2012.  Hinson credits Young with “the best hands I’ve seen on a receiver in 20 years of coaching”.  Also returning is Alex Gomes, Cameron Park, CA The question is- how much of their success was due to Keese?  If Cooper and Young improve upon their already impressive careers and Gomes steps up, then whoever ends up behind center for the Spires will have a huge head start on continuing the success St. Mary has enjoyed on offense.  Running backs Will Ryan, Pleasant Ridge, KS, and Evan Hearne, Plainview TX, who both were honored with all-conference status last year, will be huge factors as well- taking the pressure off the new QB and giving the Spires a formidable running attack to open up their passing game.  Team Captain  Alan Gudka, Keenseburg, CO, returns to anchor the offensive line, which will need to gel early to help get the running game established. Coach Hinson’s confidence in his offensive staff is evident; he states that “Coach Osborne and Coach Haehn and the rest of the offensive staff do a great job preparing our guys week in and week out”. 

This is a great position for Hinson to be in, because in order for the Spires to take the next step towards winning a title, the defense needs his full attention in order to improve.  The bright spot for the Spire D in 2012 was their pass defense, which ranked #1 in the conference.  Most other categories however, found the Spires in the middle of the pack.  Regarding the defense, Hinson says “This is going to be a very young defense.  What we saw in the spring has us very optimistic about the potential of what these guys can accomplish.”  Returning to lead that very good backfield are junior Eli Amador, New Waverly, TX, and junior Blade Wise-Perry, Lufkin, TX.  Also returning is senior Okpono Udi, Riverside, CA.  Up front, Sisco Garcia, Madera, CA returns to anchor the D-line.  Filling the remaining spots with quality players will be critical for the defense’s success, as well as determining how successful the Spires will be as a team in 2013.  

St. Mary opens the season in 2013 with a trip to Shawnee, Oklahoma to face Oklahoma Baptist, who is in their inaugural season this season.  I would expect a win there, but then, the Spires are at home vs. #14 Baker University, who is expected to contend for a title in the neighboring Heart of America Conference.  Baker will give USM all they can handle, and then some.