JOPLIN, MO – For this young Cougar team, the focus in 2023 is strength. Lifting at 7 a.m. for early practices, these young men are lead by a determined head coach in John Lucas.

“We knew we had to improve from last year,” Lucas said.

“We had to be physically stronger, and these kids have done a great job. They work hard, they love to compete, and I feel we’ve closed that gap.”

Junior quarterback Logan Decker will be leading the offense this season. Decker said a key factor in turning around last year’s 1-8 record is building confidence.

“I’m excited to get out there, and have more confidence going out and leading the team,” Decker said.

“I think it’ll be good for us if everybody builds up some confidence.”

Decker will be working to build strong connections with his receivers. Colsen Dickens, a senior receiver, said team cohesiveness is the key to success.

“I think the effort is there,” Dickens said.

“Our strongest quality going into games is playing as a team, learning together, and getting better.”

Caleb Quade, another Cougars receiver, said one of the keys to getting better is commitment, and enjoys the early morning workouts.

“It really puts drive into your team, and makes sure everyone is committed to coming out at 7am,” said Quade.

The Cougars will open up their season against Rich Hill on August 25th.