Blue Jays running back Russell Wilkey moves to a different position before the ball is hiked Friday during the Blue-White Scrimmage. The Blue Jays prepare this week for the first game of the season against Bishop Carroll on the road Friday.

Week one of the Kansas State High School Activities Association and Junction City High School football is upon the region as the Blue Jays prepare to travel to Wichita Friday to take on the Bishop Carroll Golden Eagles.

Coach Randall Zimmerman said he was excited to have reached this junction of the season.

“(It) just feels very good,” he said. “We’ve got a great group of kids, preparing very well and got a tremendous, tremendous opponent here in week one.”

Zimmerman said the Blue Jays will face off against a duel-threat quarterback in senior Aiden Niedens who completed 90 of 148 passes last year for 979 yards while also running 337 yards. Not only does the Golden Eagles have that weapon in their pocket, they have a “complete package.”

“I mean they're got a huge offensive front, very tough running back (and) good receivers,” he said. “They're the complete package. They always have been. Kids are very prideful, community is very prideful, the school-community is very prideful. We have to be at our best, that's for sure.”

Bishop Carroll also returns senior running back Hunter Trail who closed out last year with 771 rushing yards on 110 carries including 14 for touchdowns.

“He's tough, 5’7”, 190-pounds — little ball of muscle and gets the ball down here,” Zimmerman said. “He's tough. He's a really, really tough running back.”

In order to stop the Golden Eagles, who were bounced out the 5A playoff in the quarterfinals, the Blue Jays will need to get into the right positions throughout the entire contest.

“I mean that's the key — get lined up, get your eyes right and just get to the ball,” he said. “It's all about alignment and then their eyes. If they're trying to do individual stuff then we're gonna be in trouble but we should be all right.”

Monday’s practice was the first time the Blue Jays worked against the Bishop Carroll defensive and offensive schemes after watching film on them. The team learned to work against the ever shifting defense and the aggressive offense with the scout teams as they get focused on the task ahead of them.

Zimmerman said it is important for the players to take each practice of game week as serious as of they were on the field Friday night. Granted, Monday’s practice was a little unusual as Geary County Schools USD 475 returned to class for the first time since March when COVID-19 cancelled all in person classes.

“Today's the first day of school and we're kind of dealing with that,” Zimmerman said. They have been around some of their peers first time. You know, they’re full of energy and that's a very good thing. But, we got to keep our focus on. When we're practicing, let's just practice. Let's focus on practice and focus on what coaches are talking about  and those kind of things. And when we're away from practice, let our hair down and let it go.”

Though hidden behind a mask, the sound of joy of being back on the field was evident in Zimmerman’s voice.

“It's a lot of fun ... it's just fun coaching and teaching, setting in those teachers meetings and sitting at home doing Zoom stuff,” he said. “Know what, I got into education to be around kids — and I want to be around kids. People are looking forward to the weekends, I look forward to the week. I just like being around kids and like watching them grow up.”

The team will continue to work this week on the finer points of maneuvering around the Golden Eagle offensive and defensive schemes as they prepare for Friday’s season opener. Complete coverage from the game will be in Sunday’s Union Sports Section and online at www.junctioncityunion.com

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