PARSONS — For a second straight year, the Parsons Vikings will be playing as an independent in football. Confidence is high at PHS following the team’s 8-3 campaign a year ago that included the team’s first playoff wins in 42 years.

“The biggest challenge of last season was establishing winning habits in every aspect of our football program,” said second-year coach Kurt Friess. “Our program had not had very much success, wining only five games in the previous seven seasons. The biggest challenge our program faced was getting our student-athletes to believe that their hard work would pay off.”

A year ago, the Vikings opened the season with four straight victories, including a shutout of Baxter Springs to open up Class 3A-District 1. They split their final four games but still finished as the runner-up in the district behind Galena. After opening the postseason with a home win over Girard, PHS went on the road to take down Prairie View in the regionals. It eventually finished things off with a loss to eventual state champion Sabetha in the sectional round.

Despite the loss of several key seniors to graduation, the Vikings still have plenty of talent back for the new season. Leading the way are a pair of all-state seniors in quarterback/defensive back Daquan Johnson and wide receiver/defensive back Dariq Williams. Also returning to the lineup this season are seniors Noah Ryan (offensive tackle/defensive end), Aidan O’Banion (offensive/defensive line) and Croix Hogan (offensive line/linebacker), as well as juniors Ricky Ellis (offensive/defensive line), Cooper Woodworth (offensive line/linebacker) and Tanner Barcus (defensive back).

“For us to be successful next year, we will have to be more physical at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football,” Friess said. “We graduated a great senior class, so we will also have to develop a new core group of leaders. We will be identifying who the next great leaders for the Vikings will be.”

There’s reason to think the Vikings could make another serious run in the 3A postseason this season. They hope to build some early-season momentum with a non-district slate that includes back-to-back home games against Iola (Sept. 6) and Anderson County (Sept. 13) and a trip to Osawatomie (Oct. 20).

That all leads into 3A-District 1 action, which gets started on Sept. 27 with a home game with Baxter Springs. The schedule gets even tougher from that point on. With the exception of a home game against Caney Valley on Oct. 18, three of the final four games will be on the road — at Frontenac (Oct. 4), Columbus (Oct. 11) and Galena (Oct. 25). Galena heads into the season as the defending district champion, just ahead of Parsons.

“Our goal for this season is to build on last year’s success,” Friess said. “We expect the 2019 Viking Football team to compete in every game in a respectful and classy manner.”