By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

LAKIN With a large graduating class of seniors gone from last season, one might get the idea Lakin head coach Ken Waechter would be looking for some sympathy.

But the veteran coach, now in his fifth season at the Broncs' helm, is optimistic as his team prepares for its 2009 opener against Scott City on Friday.

"You couldn't ask for a tougher opening game," Waechter said. "But you've got to play good teams to see where you are. We had them on the ropes last year and could easily have won the game (a 27-20 Scott City victory in Lakin). They got the break and the win."

This time, the opener is at Scott City and Waechter realizes the season is nine games long, the last three of which are Class 3A district games.

"We've rolled almost everybody, every position over and there's now a lot of competition for playing time," Waechter said. "The thing I like about our group is that they have a great attitude. They're going to give you everything they've got."

Waechter has five starters back on both offense and defense. He welcomed 45 players at the start of preseason practice.

"We're young at many positions, but I think when we walk off the field, no matter what the score, coaches, parents and fans are going to be proud of them," Waechter said. "The kids are excited and looking forward to playing."

Quarterback for the Broncs will be senior Dylan Shalberg (6-2, 165) while seniors Evan Holmes (5-9, 148) and Zach Reed (6-1, 204) will anchor the backfield positions. On the offensive front the Broncs will have some size. That group includes juniors Colby Hamel (6-2, 259) and Steven Shafer (6-2, 290), sophomore Bryce White (6-2, 238) and freshman Jarek Lovelady (5-11, 234).

Reed played on the offensive line a year ago but has been converted to the backfield and is also moving to linebacker on the defensive side.

"Overall, I think we're perhaps a little faster than last year," Waechter said. "We're not big, we're not small."

Waechter said Shalberg's competition at quarterback has come from junior Alex Jones.

"I like both of these kids and which one doesn't get the starting job, will be at another position," Waechter said. "Alex is more of an option type and Dylan is more the throwing quarterback. I like both of them."

Waechter said one benefit of the new rules by state's governing high school body was that his players had more time to learn multiple positions.

"Our linemen can play tackle, guard and center depending on the situation or injuries," Waechter said. "It just gives us more flexibility in what we can do."