Fairview's size overwhelmed Cascade in a scrimmage last week.

“Little Fairview just got big.”

That’s how coach Chris Hughes summed up his 2018 Yellowjackets. Hughes, an offensive mastermind, has usually had to make do with smaller players, using trickery and ingenuity to succeed.

The defending region champs (9-4, 5-0 in Region 6-3A) flash a different look this year. Here’s a preview of what to expect. 

A new-look offense

Fairview lost one of the area’s most outstanding players in running back Darius James, now playing at Dodge City Community College. It also switched athletic quarterback Kam-Harris Lusk to receiver.

But Harris has always been able to plug and play with results. This year should bring more of the same, with a twist.

“They seem to fill it in,” he said, on how Fairview manages to succeed on offense year after year. “Sometimes, we’re not quite as electric as other times, but one thing we’ve always gotten is a little bit of speed, and [if] you’ve got some people in front of you who can block, you can make things happen.”

Fairview should have the blocking part down. Its offensive line averages 275 pounds, size unheard-of at Fairview, and certainly uncommon for 3-A football.

“If you compared us to those 6-A schools, up front, we’re just as big, or bigger,” Hughes said. “It’s a blessing to have those kids, and most of them are seniors. We’ve been working with them for four years, and coach [Michael] Jackson’s done a good job with them. … This is probably the best offensive line I’ve had since I’ve been coaching.”

“We’ve got those cornbread country boys out there,” Hughes continued later, “and that’s what it takes. … I’ve got one that was showing cows, and he literally missed a practice this week, and a couple more in the ag class. But they love to play and get out there and compete.”

From left tackle to right tackle, they’re Jackson Clevinger, Conner Lindsey, Hiller Gray, Nate Jackson and Decarlos Miller-Moore. Clevinger was the state’s heavyweight wrestling champion last year and an all-region player last season, while Gray was the region’s Lineman of the Year last season. Both tackles weigh over 300 pounds. 

Senior quarterback Brock Harris looked solid in last week’s scrimmage against Cascade, throwing touchdowns to Harris-Lusk and receiver Dillon Jewell. Senior receiver Will Hyche flashed big-play ability with a long, diving reception against Cascade. 

As for Harris-Lusk, Hughes says, “We’re going to move him all over.” He accounted for about 1,900 yards of total offense last season, including more than 700 on the ground. 

There’s no one on the roster who can do what James did, but a committee of backs led by sophomore Logan Nardozzi and senior Trey Bell will lead the way. 

Defense brings size, athleticism

It’ll be tough for Fairview to top last season, when it pitched four shutouts in a five-week span beginning in Week 3. 

On the other hand, Fairview struggled against certain opponents, giving up 50 to Waverly, 42 to Ravenwood and 41 to Pearl-Cohn. A denominator there was that all those teams have some bigger, stronger players than a common 3-A opponent might have.

Size should help this year. Some of the offensive linemen can play defense, also, and senior defensive end Steven Jewell, who had a pair of tackles for loss against Cascade, showed the potential to be a force. 

However, Fairview will have to replace linebacker Tristan Mann, who graduated and is now serving in the military. Mann was among the area’s leading tacklers the last two seasons. 

Linebacker Stephen Long, at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, will likely fill that role this year, with Nardozzi and Logan Parsons aside him. 

Safety, where Russell and Harris-Lusk play, should be an area of strength.