There’s under 500 kids that attend John Burroughs School, but by looking at the size of the campus, you would think otherwise. While drinking a jug of ice cold water in over 90 degree heat, Burroughs football coach John Merritt was stressing the impact of that population purtaining to his football team.
“Being a small school, a small roster we always graduate ten, 11 or 12 seniors. That means we always play six, seven, eight sophomores and it’ll be the same news this year. The questions for us is, can those sophomores fill in and contribute, like we want them to be able to, if they can then we’ll be successful and if they can’t then it’ll be real hard."
It’s a different math equation every year it seems.
“It’s a different thing every year. The last couple of years we’ve had some really talented kids. You go back to Ezekiel Elliott, John Moten or Nathan Van Slyke, Tre Moore. Last year Tom Boldstad, Ronald Smith, Chris Booker and Graham Cummings. Those guys were fantastic football players. We have to replace them, but we like the kids we have.”
Rest assured for the Bombers faithful, they have the horses to reload.
“The young kids are pretty good. Our junior class is very talented and this could be our strongest group of seniors we’ve had since I’ve been here. There’s not a lot of name-brand guys.”
What! No household names on the Bombers roster? Burroughs just lost a couple of bandwagon supporters. Hopefully they like that Burroughs will have several skilled, blue-collar workers on the field.
“There are a lot of hardcore football players. A lot of guards, linebackers, and defensive ends and guys you don’t see in the headlines, but they’re good football players.”
They return four offensive linemen that finally paved the way for a state championship against a bigger line, that usually was Burrough’s undoing. A couple of years ago, the coaching staff had a so-called, come to Jesus moment with the way they developed their linemen.
“We came to a real moment of transition losing to Maryville (in 2012). They ran for something like 575 yards in the game and we thought we needed to do something after that. We developed an offseason program to increase physicality.”
The transition has paid off with a state championship and a bigger set of linemen in the trenches.
“I think we’ve been much more physical and I thought we handled Odessa really well. That was a very strong power-running team that had their way with just about everybody in Class 3.”
Well, there are two players that may be name drops, Jake Bain and Tyler Foote, the two majestic juniors for the Bombers.
Foote had a monster sophomore season as he threw for over 2,000 yards with 35 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He’s also grown physically and mentally over the offseason.
“He’s bigger, faster, and smarter. He spent the spring and summer studying the playbook and last year he had about 40% of our offense available to him, and now he’s got 100%.”
The Bomber offensive playbook is somewhere around the length of a Webster’s Dictionary and it’s a scary thought that Foote knew only 40% of the plays and led the offense to a state championship.
“That’s a whole different thing. You go from 40% to 100%, you’ve got a whole lot more choices available.”
Running back, Jake Bain is coming off a stellar sophomore season as well. He ran for 2,172 yards and 27 touchdowns, which was good enough for a MSHSAA Class 3 First Team All-State selection and the player of the year. Bain improved his speed by running for the Burroughs track team.
“He was on the 4X400 relay that won the whole thing and he’s gotten faster. We did a lot of work out on the track to improve his running mechanics and change some things that we think will make him a little more explosive. He’s a confident kid and a tremendous athlete.”
Besides the big two on offense, who are Foote’s options in the wide receiver corps after graduating two freak athletes?
“You can answer that question by going to the 2016 Class 3 state championship in track. We won that and the biggest pieces of that group are still with us.”
Luke Lamb will replace Smith and he won’t have the exact explosiveness like his former teammate, rather just as big of a threat in his own way.
“He’s not a name that a lot of people know, but if you know Missouri then you sure know him. He’s got a lot of speed and he’s played a lot over the last few years and he’s not the human highlight that Ronald Smith is, but he’s a playmaker.”
Suleman Burrows, a fitting name, will take over for Booker. He won multiple medals for track and is known for his left foot at booting field goals and touchbacks.
“He’s a playmaker and we’re excited to get him out there.”
The slot receiver is sophomore, D.J. Miller, who Merritt is very high on.
“He’s very special, explosive and talented."
Ben Dankner is the tight end and he’ll be looking to step into his own.
“He’s been in a very long line of tight ends. He kills us in practice every day and he’s excited to get his shot. He’s a strong, tough, good-looking kid. I think people will be impressed with him.”
On the defensive side, three-year starter Jordan Bow returns at strong safety. Andrew Braswell, Burrows, and Haaris Malik will join Bow in the secondary. Most of the offensive line will be rotated in with the defensive line.
“Our front seven guys are pretty tough. They’re very solid and spent all summer working on our physical techniques, which has made a difference. We like what we look defensively.”
Explosive offense and solid looking defense equals another season of expectations for Burroughs. That’s why they’re ranked No. 1 in the GSV small school rankings. It also helped that they won a state title too. Going into the offseason some weren’t too high on the Bombers because they lost a decent sized and very experienced senior class, while the incoming seniors weren’t well known. It should be a typical Burroughs season, but that won’t mean the rest will lay down for them. Don’t completely expect them to run the table in the Metro League, but a state title run will be a whole different story.