CANEY — Over the past decade, Caney Valley has been the dominant team in the Tri-Valley League, winning eight of the last nine football crowns. Yet with the change in the classification system in Kansas, this will be the second straight year the TVL does not award a league championship in the sport.

As the only remaining Class 3A member in the league, the Bullpups will now set their sights on the big picture … continuing their trend of postseason appearances. With another trip to the postseason last season, CVHS has now reached the Class 3A playoffs in 13 of the past 15 seasons.

Placed in arguably one of the toughest districts in 3A, the ‘Pups earned the fourth and final spot out of District 1 a year ago, finishing behind Galena, Parsons and Frontenac. Although they face the same challenges in 2019, longtime coach Criss Davis said his squad is ready to prove people wrong again this season.

“People told me last year that we probably wouldn’t win a game in our district because we were playing tougher competition,” Davis said. “The other teams in our district had dropped down from 4A-Division II, so we were the smallest school in that group. Instead, we made the playoffs out of our district. We’ve never shied away from competition. We went out there and proved a lot of people wrong.”

Although the challenges lies ahead once again, Caney Valley benefits with the return of 13 total starters — six on offense and seven of defense.

The ‘Pups will be led on offense by senior quarterback Trey Richey, who was named All-TVL First Team a year ago. Joining him in the backfield will be senior halfback Ben Nunneley. Seniors Andrew Bowman and Vincent Nacin are back at tight end, while senior Ethan Moreland and sophomore Kylar Brandon return on the line at the tackle position. Other individuals that could play key roles on offense are seniors Eryk Kyser at halfback and Lance Moore at guard.

Defensively, CVHS will rely on many of the same players — Moreland at tackle, Bowman linebacker, Richey free safety and Kyser cornerback. Also back are senior Brayden Smith at tackle, as well as sophomore Tanner Rose and junior Jake Ellis at cornerback. Other players that saw considerable playing time a year ago were junior Tucker Killian and sophomore Trey King at linebacker.

The Bullpups kick off the new season on Sept. 6 at Montgomery County rival Cherryvale. After that, they will remain on the road on Sept. 13 as they play a neutral-site game against Eureka in Chanute. They wrap up the pre-district portion of their schedule on Sept. 20 in their home opener against Neodesha.

CVHS’ schedule only gets tougher from that point on, starting with the Sept. 27 District 1 opener at home against Columbus. Three of the final four games will be on the road at Galena, Parsons and Baxter Springs, with the last home game of the regular season set for Oct. 11 against Frontenac.

“I just ask that my kids go out there and give their best effort every night we play,” Davis said. “If you don’t think you can go out and compete, what’s the point of playing? I don’t ever have to worry about that with my kids. We go out and compete against each and every team we play. This is a great group of kids that want to get better every day. I’m ready to turn the lights on and see what we have this season.”