Zach Wagner has seen his teams accomplish a lot during his seven years as head coach at McLean County High School.
But, with this season, having to replace 18 seniors, and then opening the season 0-3, the challenge appeared immense for the Cougars.
"We had to replace a lot of moving parts," Wagner said.
Those moving parts accounted for nearly 1,900 yards in total offense, most of that coming on the ground with McLean County's hybrid Wing-T oriented offense. The football rarely goes in the air when the Cougars have it.
After that 0-3 start, which included a 46-42 loss at Ohio County and a 34-0 shutout against Union County, the Cougars got themselves back in order and won the next three in a row. McLean County then lost to Class 2-A district foe Owensboro Catholic (55-21). Thereafter, it was all wins for McLean County.
The Cougars finished the regular season 6-4. For the rebuilding work in the regular season, Wagner was picked as the Messenger-Inquirer All-Area Coach of the Year for 2019, making him a repeat winner of the award.
That McLean County got itself rolling after a tough start was a testament to continuing to work through the bad times.
"We told them we loved them and to keep working," Wagner said. "I wish I had some great story to tell about how we turned it around, but it was just a workmanlike mentality. The first part of this season we had some injuries, just some rough spells, but we got through it."
See Wagner/Page C7
The Cougars had a good nucleus of returning players to run the ball, but it needed to build up front.
"The beauty of our offense is, and we joke with our coaches, it's four-back fun," Wagner said. "There really wasn't an ah-ha moment for us this season, even going 0-3 we continued to get better, work on small things each week and continue to improve."
McLean County was productive running the ball once again this season. Peyton Caraway led McLean County in the regular season with 800 yards. Andrew Munster had 767 yards and a team-high 15 touchdowns. Landon Capps finished the regular season with 800 yards.
After playing behind a talented group for a couple of years, this team was ready to prove itself, Wagner thought.
"Every team has their own identity," Wagner said. "With the years here, having some success, that breeds confidence in our players. We still have two or three brothers from last year's team, that's a good carryover. I don't know if there was a next man up mentality, but we had some juniors, sophomores, a couple of freshmen, and there was a lot of eagerness to be the next man to have their time."
There were seven seniors on board this season, and they helped set an overall positive tone for the team.
"There was no negativity this year," Wagner said. "That made it an easier season to coach. It was easy to keep these guys positive. I would like to say it's all because of our coaching staff, but maybe they're just a confident group."