COMMERCE — Having the offensive and defensive players of the year in District 2A-7 back doesn’t hurt as Commerce makes the transition back down to Class A.
Quarterback Hayden Moss earned offensive POY honors and middle linebacker Ryan Dunbar was the defensive player of the year in 2017.
Is the drop to Class A good or bad for the Tigers?
“It’s good, but we will see,” CHS head coach Steve Moss said. “I’ll enjoy not playing schools with 60 percent more ADM (average daily membership) than we have, that’s for sure.”
The Tigers qualified for the Class A playoffs 12 of 13 years between 1996 and 2008.
They followed that up with nine straight 2A post-season appearances from 2009 to 2017.
The Tigers also return two other position players of the year: defensive end Kolby Dean and defensive back Chris Ibarra.
“We lost five good seniors, but at the same time, all of these (returning) kids have played a lot so you could almost consider all of them starters,” Steve Moss said.
The Tigers finished 9-4 and reached the Class 2A quarterfinals, where they lost to Washington, 63-21.
CHS beat Salina and Valliant in the first two rounds.
Hayden Moss rewrote the CHS record book with new standards for passing yards and touchdowns both in a game and season.
He’s got 3,526 yards and 37 TD passes thus far in his career.
Dunbar logged a team-high 180 tackles (49 solos and 131 assists) with one sack, an interception and a fumble recovery.
Joining Hayden Moss in the backfield will be Dunbar at fullback and running back Chris Ibarra.
Ibarra carried the ball 137 times and netted 941 yards and 13 touchdowns while Dunbar contributed 711 yards and 10 TDs on 115 carries.
“All three have started a lot of football games at Commerce,” Steve Moss said.
The one area that has to be reshaped is a receiving corps that accounted for 2,079 yards.
Seniors Trevor Browning had 40 catches for 1,017 yards, Lupe Prado, 44 for 716, and Hunter Burkybile, 20 for 346 yards.
“We several kids that are working hard and trying to fill that spot,” Steve Moss said. “We will see what we can come up with. We had three guys that had that yardage. It’s probably going to be eight or nine guys instead of three.”
Plans are to rotate Caleb Eulitt, Oscar Gutierrez and Lance Hyatt at Z (flanker) and
Brandt Nading and Eric Cunningham at X (split end).
Up front will be Juan Herrera at center, Brandon Brown at even guard and Nick Murphy at even tackle, Colby Dean at odd guard and either Ty Houston or Spencer Osborn at the other tackle spot.
Murphy has been moved from guard.
Tight end Caden Pickard is out with a broken leg suffered this summer so Salvador Martinez and Orlando Sierra are vying for the starting job.
“Hopefully this crew we have this year is pretty multiple. We can run the ball fairly effectively and we can throw it fairly effectively,” Steve Moss said. “Hopefully we can take advantage with everyone we need to every night.”
Dunbar will anchor a defense that includes Austin Hart at weak side end, Spencer Osborn at tackle, Jayke Murphy at nose guard, Colby Dean at end, Kobe Forbis at linebacker, Brandon Kelley at strong safety, Ibarra at free safety and Hayden Moss and Lance Hyatt at the corners.
The Tigers are without Caden Pickard and Kaleb Eulitt. Both are recovering from broken legs.
Ibarra was the Tigers’ second-leading tackler behind Dunbar with 111 stops.
He also had an interception, three pass deflections and two fumble recoveries.
“We’re looking at utilizing our team speed, athleticism and smarts — getting after people,” defensive coordinator Jack Kelley said.