Trey Smith (35) applies a tackle in the Aug.18 Blazers scrimmage. The Blazers host rival Blue Valley in the season opener Aug. 31.The game will be featured on Metro Sports and begins at 7 p.m.  Photo courtesy of Angie Plank

Dave Switzer
Special to The Gardner News
New challenges abound for Gardner Edgerton as they begin the 2012 football campaign.
The Blazers, coming off another state semi-final appearance in 2011, will move up a class to 6A this year.
And what a loaded class it will be.  Perrenial state champion Hutchison will also be moving up to the state’s top grouping which will feature returning state champ Olathe South as well as powerhouse programs in Derby and Wichita Heights.
But GE appears to have the horses to challenge the state’s top prep teams.
Start with running back Traevohn Wrench.  Wrench returns for his junior season after destroying the Blazer record books as a sophomore.
The dynamic junior-who has been ranked as one of the state’s top running backs in the class of’14-rushed for 2424 yards and scored 36 touchdowns in his spectacular sophomore campaign.  Wrench also broke Bubba Starling’s single-game rushing record last season.   He was named first team all-state running back by the Wichita Eagle and was a Simone Award finalist.
Wrench will not be the only offensive weapon for head coach Marvin Diener. Junior Jared Hobby returns to quarterback the club after a stellar sophomore season in which he threw for over 1,000 yards with 10 TD passes.
Other returning starters on the offensive side of the ball include Wide Receiver Jamain Lang and Guard Denton Lawrence.  Lawrence has been seeing some time on the defensive side during early-season drills.
Looking to make a splash on offense this year are returning letter winners Dustin Williams (running back). Chris Oathout (lineman), and Marshall Wade (running back).
The Blazers will look to throw the ball more this year to complement the running game led by Wrench. Hobby has looked very sharp in early season workouts and has a strong receiving corps to work with.
Defensively, the Blazers will be led by senior middle linebacker Matt Plank.  Plank is a two year letter-winner who had 76 solo tackles last season.  He was named first team all-state by both the Wichita Eagle and the Topeka Capital Journal.
Coach Kris Henry’s defensive group also many other outstanding players.  Max and Conner Knorr move over from the offensive side to play on the d-line this season.  The Knorr twins are big, athletic, and highly skilled.   Austin Gardner has also looked good in the other D-line position.
Safety Riley Craig is the sole returning starter in backfield that will have to be improved to be able to stop the aerial attacks in the pass-happy EKL.
Other returning letter winners on the defensive side of the ball include Darrel Lutz (defensive back,), Logan Powell (linebacker), Boston Scott (linebacker), and Dalton Kirk (linebacker).
GE is going to find out in a hurry what kind of team they have as they open at home against league and state power Blue Valley.  The Tigers are highly ranked in 5A this year and will have their traditional strong, physical team.
“It is about as good of an opener as a guy could be involved with,” said Diener about his 2012 season opening  foe.
The game will also be the first in the refurbished USD 231 District Stadium which now has field turf and some additional seating and aesthetic improvements.
Kickoff is set for 7:00 on August 31.
Following that game will be the very difficult EKL slate before district play in 6A begins on October 12 when defending state champion Olathe South comes to  town.  Powerful Olathe North will be the Blazers next opponent before they end the regular season with Olathe Northwest-a team that made the playoffs last year.
“Our program is well prepared for the jump to 6A but there is no question we will have to play very well starting in week seven (against Olathe South),” said Diener about the move up in classification.