2013 KHQA Barnstorm Tour

They could have weathered one or the other, But when South Shelby lost both their best offensive and defensive players to injury last November at Salisbury, it was fickle fate more than anything that ended the Cardinals quest for a return to the Dome. Yet an off-season spent wondering "what might have been" has proven powerful motivation for the future in Shelbina.

"It was very frustrating after working hard the whole year. When key people get hurt, its frustrating to have your season shut down early,"

"We felt like we had the game at halftime but it went downhill from there, so it does leave a desire to get out here and get back after it,"

How very different things might have been for South Shelby had all-state tailback Trace Windsor not fractured his back in that first quarter against Salisbury? The upshot, however, is that the Cardinals' franchise back has been given a clean bill of health to compete, and a motivative window to improve on 1,800 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns he amassed as a sophomore.

"he's had a good off-season and worked hard to get back and his back is doing fine. He's one of those kids that has great vision and great feet, sees the field well and follows his blocks. Its very important to our team that they have a back that can rack up those yards and touchdowns for us and Trace Windsor is that type of kid,"

But in an effort to prevent defenses from loading up against Windsor, Rob Wilt has stacked his offensive backfield, which will get boosts from Monroe City transfer Kenny Smithey and bruising fullback Bryce Pfeiffer. The most noticeable change, however, will come at quarterback, where the insertion of a track and field standout may give the Birds their most mobile backfield since the Curt Hines era.

"I feel like with our new quarterback Brett there will be a lot more speed and its going to be a lot quicker - teams aren't going to know what's hitting them,"

"I don't know if we have the offensive line that we've had in the past, the guys that are 250 and can move, we don't have those guys this year, so we'll have to use a little mis-direction and hopefully Brett Threlkeld will allow us to do that at quarterback,"

For all of the glittering skill position weapons in play, South Shelby's success ultimately on offense hinges on a quick rebuild up front.

"I think we'll stack up pretty well up front. Even though we're not big, I think we'll work hard enough to really stack up with bigger teams this year,"

"We've got some new kids in there but we've got to rebuild and go with it,"

That same 'fix it up front first' mentality prevails on defense, which puts the onus on coordinator Zach Grassley to do some creative things with his proven linebacker and secondary groups to compensate.

"It's going to be speed-based and aggressive. Its completely different than what we're used to running, its new for us so it might take a little while to get clicking but we'll be out there after it,"

"We've got some high goals and the only way I know to go about it is hard work, discipline, and hopefully outworking our opponents,"