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FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Hilburn takes over alma mater, ready to lead Seneca

Lucas Davis

Seneca football has a new look heading into the 2021 season, as Cody Hilburn has taken over the program of his alma mater after spending the last 10 years with Carthage football.

“It’s different when you get to come home,” Hilburn said. “That is where my kids go to school, they always have, but it’s special getting to come home and coach where you graduated from.”

“Anytime there is a change, it adds to the excitement,” Hilburn added about his team’s readiness for the upcoming season. “Also, add the excitement of the new field turf almost being done, and the community is on fire right now. We are ready to get going.”

Hilburn is taking over for former coach Ryan McFarland, who is now the offensive coordinator for Webb City. Hilburn, working under head coach Jon Guidie, was a part of plenty of successful teams while with the Tigers, including the school’s first ever state title run in 2019. That experience on the sidelines, including the successes of helping to build a program will go a long way for Hilburn as he takes over the Indians’ program.

“I loved my time at Carthage, and I told Coach Guidie there is really only one job I would consider leaving Carthage for and it happened to be the Seneca job,” Hilburn said. “We did some great things at Carthage. They have a great program. Because I was there for so long, I got to see what championship football looked like, and that is kind of the model (we want to use here).”

Highlighting the list of returners for the Indians include senior Ethan Fritchey (QB), senior Jaxson Graham (RB, all-Big 8), senior RB/LB Dane Napier (all-Big 8 LB), senior OL/DL Tanner Nesvold, senior OL/DL Brock Hultman, senior OL/DL David Cooper, junior OL/DL Chris Alexander, senior TE/LB Gabe Commons and junior WR Conner Ackerson.

“Those are some guys who have done a good job of leading this football team all summer,” Hilburn said. “I count on them in the locker room and to make some plays this fall.”

Additional players who figure to make an impact at the varsity level include junior RB/LB Lincoln Renfro, junior RB/LB Dominick Wheeler and junior TE/DB Jordan Allen.

Hilburn plans to run an offense similar to what Carthage runs, a two-back spread with multiple looks. The focus, though, will be making sure the offense is built around the Seneca players and not forcing the players into the wrong fit.

“I think we have some good kids who are committed and bought in to be playing our best football by Week 10,” Hilburn said of the mindset of his team leading into the season. “I think we are going to continue to grow each and every week. We have a ton of inexperience, so we are still trying to get kids in the correct spot and figure out what their roles will be.”

Seneca opens the season at home against Marshfield at 7 p.m. on Friday. 

“All we preach to our kids is to get better every day,” Hilburn said. “Let’s get better by at least one percent every single day and see where we are at by the end of the year.”


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