By The Telegram

Average seasons have rarely occurred since Jason Kenny arrived at Ulysses High School in 1999.

The Tigers have been on the brink of a Class 4A state championship on more than occasion, falling in the championship game in 2005, making the semifinals on four other occasions. He has a 78-24 record at Ulysses.

Nothing, though, that occurred in 2008, was in the norm for Tiger football.

The Tigers, with just two returning starters a year ago, struggled early, rallied late, and then fell in the first round of the state playoffs. The end result was a 5-5 record, a 3-1 record and second-place finish to Scott City in the Mid State Activities Association league race.

"Our kids are excited about the season," Kenny said. "We are more physical than we were, but we've got a very tough schedule."

In 2008, the Tigers dropped their first three games and four of their first five. The Tigers regrouped then proceeded to win five of their final six regular season games, going 3-0 in their district, before dropping a 23-21 heartbreaker to Clearwater in their opening playoff matchup.

"The tough schedule we hope will prepare us for district play and the playoffs later in the season," Kenny said.

Kenney and his staff have six returning offensive starters and seven veteran defensive players to build around this season.

That offensive group includes seniors quarterback Bryce Moral (5-10, 160), center Ryan Kautz (5-10, 220), guard Brandon Seger (5-11, 180), split end Josh Sullivan (6-0, 175), and junior running back Addison Nichols (6-0, 185).

"We've got decent team speed but not great speed," Kenny said.

On the defensive side, the Tigers will look to Kautz at tackle, Seger at linebacker and Sullivan in the secondary as his up-the-middle anchors. They will be joined by returning starters seniors tackle Josh Rodriguez (5-10, 165), end Jack Maxwell (6-5, 215) and Chano Pauda (5-11, 200) at one outside linebacker with junior Bryce Lubbers (6-0, 190) at the other outside linebacker.

Kenny also knows that road games at Garden City, Hays, Holcomb and Larned in the early portion of the season will be offset by tough home games against Class 3A area playoff regular Scott City in the third week of the season.

"Our offensive line still has a ways to go and we need to improve in every area," Kenny said. "I like that we have experience coming back in the defense up the middle."

Kenny said the Tigers welcomed 75 players in this season.