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Game of the Week -- Lakeside dealing with inexperience, injuries

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The Downs-Lakeside High School football team started 0-2 and is 2-9 in the two-year Kody Tegtmeier era. Tegtmeier received more bad news this week when three key players are out for Friday's contest at in-county rival Osborne, 2-0 and ranked No. 2 in Eight-Man Division I in the statewide media poll.

Junior starting defensive end Brennan Dammon, a transfer from Silver Lake and the new superintendent's son, will miss the contest because his brother is getting married Saturday.

Junior Austin Gasper, another starting defensive end, played offense in Monday's junior varsity game on a wet field and suffered an injury. Sophomore Keegan Kohl, is out because of another injury.

Tegtmeier, a former Hanover graduate and assistant, took over a program that went 19-3 in two seasons under former coach Curt Christians.

However, for back-to-back seasons, the Knights have had fewer than three returning starters on both sides of the ball. This fall, the only returning starter is senior center Sage Schlaefli.

"Very, very frustrating," Tegtmeier said of basically starting over twice. "I know we are young, we are inexperienced. I got a few kids that played last year, but me coming from Hanover, they have graduated whoever, but right there next in line, there are kids that are ready to play and want to play. It's a little different here. It's not all about sports."

In 2010 and '11, Osborne and Lakeside met in Week 1 in two classic matchups. Osborne won the first game and Lakeside took the second one. Last season, Osborne won 58-24.

This season, Osborne is the heavy favorite, but Friday also marks the start of district play. Osborne coach Steve Tiernan said a rivalry still exists because both schools are in Osborne County, but the district implications are more important.

"It's a district game and it's the next game," Tiernan said. "I don't - and I try to make sure that they don't - look past anybody. The next game is the most important game and now that it's a district game, it is very important. Hopefully we go out and play well and do all we can to win that."

Tegtmeier, in his first head coaching job, has had trouble with getting kids consistently into the weight room and improving football IQ. From 2011 to '12, the Knights graduated 11 kids. From 2012 to '13, Lakeside graduated another 10. Lakeside opened the season with a 52-6 defeat to Lincoln and a 28-12 loss to Chase, a squad that has made the playoffs each of the last three years.

"We are not experienced by any means, but we are gaining experience for the future," Tegtmeier said. "We are kind of a young team this year and hopefully it will help in the future."

In 2009, Tegtmeier graduated college, but the market was difficult. He estimated five out of 25 kids in his class immediately had teaching jobs. Tegtmeier applied for eight-man Caldwell, but the school had 55 applicants and interviewed 11 people for one spot.

He also interviewed at Southern Cloud, a job that was open for about two weeks. Lakeside was the first place that offered Tegtmeier.

The Knights are the only eight-man school that has had to virtually start new in back-to-back seasons, according to Kansas Pregame magazine. Schlaefli and Merritt Blain are the lone senior starters. Junior Shayne Renken is the starting quarterback. Junior Lane Elmore plays fullback and Tristen Winkel is the sophomore tailback.

"I am going to have my work cut out for me, obviously," he said. "But I was up to the challenge. Just trying to make a difference, bring my knowledge from what it takes to win from Hanover and trying to install it in the minds of kids here. Over a two-year span, I have seen an increase ... in interest and want. We still have got a long way to go."