A year after reaching the Eight Man-Division I playoffs with a 5-4 record, the Cedar Vale/Dexter Spartans will be at it again as they prepare to kick off the 2019 campaign.

Under the direction of co-head coaches K.B. Criss (second season) and Richard Atherton (fourth season), CVD will have some experience back this season with the return of seven starters to the lineup.

“We have some returning experience with some familiarity with the system,” said Criss. “We are strong at the skill positions and have some solid front-line guys. We are really going to have to get better up front and develop some kids. We are short on linemen right now, so both the offensive and defensive line overall concern me from a depth standpoint. Overall, depth is a concern.”

Last season, the Spartans had a promising start by winning five of their first six games. Things went downhill in the final weeks, resulting in three straight losses and a setback to Coldwater/Protection in the opening round of the playoffs.

“If we can stay away from injuries and continue to get better every game, we could have a real solid season,” Criss said. “We must finish better than we did last year. We started out 5-1 and then got some guys banged up and did not play as well late in the year. So not finishing strong is very disappointing and has left a bad taste throughout the offseason.”

The Spartans will rely on seven returning starters to provide leadership this fall. That includes an All-South Central Border League and All-State running back in junior Brogan Myers. A year ago, Myers was leading the state in rushing until injuries slowed him down the last four games of the season. He finished with 1,422 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns.

Three other All-SCBL honorees return to the lineups, including seniors Arik Artherton at end/linebacker, Clayton Henderson at quarterback/defensive back and Colton Potter at offensive/defensive line. Artherton had a team-high 68 tackles a year ago. Henderson completed 38-of-82 passes for 649 yards and seven touchdowns at QB. Meanwhile, Potter was a force on defense with seven sacks.

Also returning this season are senior running back/defensive back Jimmy Rock, junior end/defensive end Cole Criss and junior offensive lineman/defensive end Si Killman.

The Spartans will open the 2019 season with back-to-back home games against Altoona-Midway (Sept. 6) and South Haven (Sept. 13). Three of the next four games will be on the road, including Caldwell Sept. 20 and the Eight Man I-District 1 opener at Flinthills Sept. 27. CVD will host defending district champion Sedan on Oct. 4 before heading to West Elk on Oct. 11. The final two games of the regular season include a home game with Oswego on Oct. 18 and a trip to Central-Burden Oct. 25.