What you need to know about the Three Rivers League 11-Man Football Division

Growing up in a small town and attending Uniontown, I had a front-row view of the Three Rivers League. For six years, through junior high and high school, I was able to experience all that the TRL had to offer. From heated rivalries, long bus trips, or the passion that student-athletes, head coaches, and parents share in their pursuit of winning, I have been through it all. There is nothing quite like small town sports. It binds a school and community together. Every week the teams pursue greatness within the class room as well as in their athletic practices. Likewise, every week the community will travel to the stands or bleachers to cheer on their local team.

This will be my second full season covering the football side of things in the TRL, and I could not be more excited.

Heading into the 2018 season, the TRL 11-Man division has a fresh feel to it. Recent realignment has seen the inclusion of the CNC’s Southeast into the TRL. However, that is not the only “new” the TRL will be experiencing in the upcoming year. Oswego has made the decision to drop down to the 8-Man division amid low numbers in their program, while Pleasanton will be making the jump from the 8-Man division to the 11-Man division.

After winning their third straight TRL 11-Man division title, Jayhawk-Linn looks to stay on top for a fourth consecutive year. However, with the arrival of newcomers Southeast and Pleasanton, along with Uniontown bringing back the majority of its core, Jayhawk-Linn’s title hopes could be in danger. The TRL is loaded with talent, which should make an interesting race for the 2018 TRL title.

Earlier in the month of August, the TRL 11-Man coaches’ preseason poll was released. Jayhawk-Linn again was selected to finish first, receiving all but one first place vote. The rest of the poll shook out as follows:

1. Jayhawk-Linn (5) – 25
2. Uniontown (1) – 17
tie Pleasanton – 17
4. Yates Center – 14
5. Southeast – 11
6. Northeast – 6

Here is everything you need to know about the TRL in 2018 from players to watch, to the SEK Sports.com preseason power rankings, and everything in between.

5 Most Important Three Rivers League Games:

Aug. 31st: Northeast at Pleasanton — Northeast has gone win-less over the past two seasons, while Pleasanton has just made the transition from 8-Man football. This is an important game on both teams schedule. Not only is it the season opener, but it is a chance to prove something. With a win Northeast can begin 2018 with their first win since 2015. On the flip side Pleasanton can make a statement if they take the victory, putting the rest of the TRL on notice that they can compete in the 11-Man division.

Aug. 31st: Southeast at Uniontown — While these two teams have played one another in the last two season openers, this contest will carry more weight than usual being that it is now a league game. Last season Uniontown edged out Southeast in a tight 16-12 win. Similarly to Northeast, Southeast has struggled to get into the win column recently. Their last win came in 2014. This match-up will provide Southeast with an opportunity to start 2018 off right. For Uniontown they will aim to defeat Southeast for the third straight year and start on their journey towards competing for a league title.

Sept. 7th: Jayhawk-Linn at Uniontown — If the preseason coaches’ poll is any indication, this should be a great game. It might even be the game of the year in the TRL. While Jayhawk-Linn has defeated Uniontown handily the last two seasons, 36-0 and 40-0 respectively, this year presents a new challenge. Jayhawk-Linn will have the chance to continue their dominance over the TRL and show the league that this year is no different than last. However, with the core of their team back Uniontown has a shot to defeat Jayhawk-Linn for the first time since they re-joined the 11-Man division in 2016. The winner of this contest will have the inside track to winning the league title.

Sept. 7th: Northeast at Yates Center — Last year’s contest between these two schools came down to the final possession with Yates Center ultimately prevailing 20-14. This year looks to be no different as both teams return key players. This will be an important game for both teams in regards to TRL standings. If Northeast is unable to open their season with a win against Pleasanton, they again will have the opportunity to get into the win column in week two. Yates Center will look to build off their 2017 second place TRL finish and start off 2018 1-0 in league play.

Sept. 14th: Jayhawk-Linn at Pleasanton — These two teams have not met since 2007, as Pleasanton has been in the 8-Man division since. By week three, it will be interesting to see if Pleasanton has become accustomed to 11-Man football. This game also has huge league implications, especially if both teams enter the week with an unblemished record. For Jayhawk-Linn, every TRL contest will be important in their quest for their fourth consecutive title.

Players to Watch:

RB/DB Hayden Broyles, Jayhawk-Linn, (6-1, 175, Sr.) — First-team All-TRL DB & 1000 yard rusher in 2017

QB/FS Treyton Compton, Jayhawk-Linn, (5-9, 155, Sr.) — First-team All-TRL QB

OG/LB Zach Nickelson, Jayhawk-Linn, (5-10, 195, Sr.) — First-team All-TRL OG/LB

OL/LB Hunter Jackson, Northeast, (5-10, 180, Jr.) — HM All-TRL LB

QB/DB Karter Dugan, Northeast, (5-10, 165, So.) — HM All-TRL QB

QB/LB Kaden McKee, Pleasanton, (5-11, 170, Sr.) — 8-Man First-Team All-TRL QB & 1,500 yards passing, 22 TDs; 600 rush yards, 8 TDs

WR/DB Kasen McKee, Pleasanton, (5-8, 140, Jr.) — 8-Man First-Team All-TRL WR & 780 receiving yards, 16 TDs

QB/DB Brett Malle, Southeast, (Sr.) — Team leader on offense

OL/DL Noah Newcomb, Southeast, (Sr.) — Four-year starter on the offensive/defensive line

RB/DE Hayden Miller, Uniontown, (6-1, 175, Sr.) — HM All-TRL DE

OL/DL Nick Hathaway, Uniontown, (6-0, 190, Sr.) — First-team All-TRL DL, HM All-TRL OL

QB/DB Ty Davidson, Uniontown, (5-7, 140, Jr.) — First-Team All-TRL QB/DB

RB/LB Andrew Reed, Uniontown, (5-11, 170, Jr.) — All-State HM, First-team All-TRL RB/LB

RB/LB Thanye Smith, Yates Center, (Sr.) — HM All-TRL RB

RB/DB Quin Lowder, Yates Center, (Sr.) — First-team All-TRL DB

Something on Everyone:

Jayhawk-Linn Jayhawks — Jayhawk-Linn is trying to become the first team to win the TRL 11-Man division for the fourth straight season since Burlington did it in 1989. Losing standout performers Brandon Gray, Harley Stone, and Brandon Gills will hurt, but they bring back upperclassmen in key positions. The Jayhawks will lean on Hayden Broyles and Treyton Compton to lead the team.

Northeast Vikings — Northeast brings back nearly their entire team, including the majority of their starters on offense and defense. Head coach Phil Hobbs believes that this will be the season that the Viking break through into the win column and become competitive. This is still one of the youngest teams in the TRL, with only two returning starters being seniors.

Pleasanton Blu-Jays — Pleasanton will be making the leap from the 8-Man division to the 11-Man division. Their transition will be one of the more interesting story lines in the league. Will they be able to continue their high octane Air Raid offense? That will be soon discovered. However, one known aspect of the team is that they bring back and outstanding player in Kaden McKee who passed for over 1,500 yards and 22 TDs, as well as rushing for 600 yards and 8 TDs. Kaden is not the only McKee who found success last season either, as his younger brother Kasen McKee finished the season with 780 receiving yards to go along with 16 TDs.

Southeast Lancers — Southeast is a team who has struggled recently within the tough CNC League. Facing the likes of St. Mary’s Colgan, Frontenac, Girad, Columbus, Baxter Springs, Riverton and Galena week in and week out has made victories few and far between. However, with the team moving into the TRL they believe they will be able to compete as the schools are all close to the same size. Brette Malle returns for his senior seasons to spearhead the Lancers offensive attack.

Uniontown Eagles — Uniontown narrowly missed the playoffs in 2017 after losing to Yates Center 22-24. The Eagles were decimated by low numbers and injuries as the season winded down, leaving them with only twelve available players during the final three contests. Uniontown was also one of the youngest teams in the league, graduating only four seniors. With nearly their entire core of players returning in 2018, Uniontown is a team to watch. With skill players Ty Davidson, Andrew Reed (All-State Honorable Mention), and Hayden Miller back, as well as offensive lineman Nick Hathaway, Uniontown looks to have one of the most explosive offenses in the league. Head coach Jeremy Neville has begun to bring consistency back to a team that is only in their third season back from 8-Man football. The Eagles will look to win their first 11-Man league title since 2011 (They won the 2015 8-Man TRL title) as well as making a push towards the playoffs.

Yates Center Wildcats — Yates Center was able to finish 3-1 in the TRL last season, which was good enough to place second in the league. They also were able to punch their ticket and sneak into the playoffs. All-League performers Thayne Smith and Quin Lowder lead the Wildcats on offense and defense respectively. Head coach Ryan Panko returns a roster that saw mild success last season and hopes to build off of that momentum heading into 2018. All in all the Wildcats should be much more improved for the upcoming season.

SEK Sports Preseason Power Rankings

  1.  Jayhawk-Linn
  2.  Uniontown
  3.  Yates Center
  4.  Southeast
  5.  Pleasanton
  6.  Northeast

Here is to another fantastic and competitive football season within the Three Rivers League. I want to wish the best of luck to all of the coaches and players. The official start to the regular season is Friday, August 31st. Until then, keep your eye out for SEK Sports’ individual TRL team previews.

Individual TRL team previews (links)

Jayhawk-Linn — releasing 5/22

Northeast — releasing 5/23

Yates Center — releasing 5/24

Southeast — releasing 5/27

Uniontown — releasing 5/28

Pleasanton — releasing 5/29