MONROE CITY, Mo. -- The Monroe City football team became the buzz of Northeast Missouri last November by making a run to the Class 1 state championship game.
Mornoe City settled for runner-up after falling to Penney in the title game, finishing with an 11-4 record. However, chatter of the run still lingered.
That's the last thing the Panthers want to talk about now.
"We just have to move on," senior Cole Pennewell said. "Last year isn't going to help us this year. We have to put that on the backburner and focus on this year."
All of the players and the coaching staff are on board with focusing on this season.
"We had a high school graduation," Monroe City coach David Kirby said. "I know that sounds corny. We met with the 2018 seniors, and we talked about as a group our favorite part of last year, what was your least favorite part and what does your chapter of the story say?
"All the kids looked at me and said, ‘We have to make sure we don't talk about last year.' It was cool, but it was in the past."
Monroe City's opponents, however, won't forget. That means the Panthers can expect to get everyone's best shot each Friday night.
"That target is kind of motivation for us," junior quarterback Blake Hays said. "We know we're one of the teams everyone wants to beat. That's a good thing for us because it makes us work harder and we strive to be the best we can."
Monroe City still has the weapons to make another run to the state title game.
The Panthers lost their top two leading rushers in Logan Minter (1,107 yards) and Cody Porter (1,008) to graduation, but return junior running back Zach Osborn who ran for 739 yards on 88 carries with nine touchdowns. Osborn also became a threat on special teams, and returned a kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown against Lincoln in the state semifinals.
Pennewell also returns after rushing for 563 yards on 107 carries and scored eight touchdowns. All that happened with Hays under center, engineering an offense that averaged 297.7 rushing yards per game. Hays completed 31 of 55 passes for 516 yards and five scores last fall.
Monroe City also returns the bulk of its offensive and defensive lines in Alex Wilson, Brad Cheek, Jon Saxbury and Michael Ryan. The Panthers lost all-state lineman Josh Underhill to graduation.
"The kids have a ton of experience on Friday nights," Kirby said. "Because of that, they've elevated their speed in practice. They're excited to put their stamp on things."
Even though the Panthers aren't talking about last season's run, the goal remains to get back to state.
"Of course," Hays said. "It's the goal every year. Some years you don't meet it, but you still work just as hard. If you don't make it, at least you went down trying."
MONROE CITY: AT A GLANCE
Coach: David Kirby (25-23 at Monroe City, fifth season)
2016 record: 11-4 (5-3 Clarence Cannon Conference)
Offense -- QB Blake Hays; FB Cole Pennewell, 6-0, 205, Sr.; RB Zach Osborn, 5-9, 155, Jr.; OL Alex Wilson, 6-0, 265, Sr.; OL Brad Cheek, 6-3, 220, Sr.; OL Jon Saxbury, 6-1, 285, Jr.; OL Michael Ryan, 6-4, 195, Sr.
Defense -- LB Pennewell; DL Saxbury; DL Wilson; DB Dawson Shively, 6-2, 173, Sr.; DB Nathan Mehrer, 6-0, 155, Sr.; DB Hays, DB Osborn.
New faces: LB/FB Nolan Pennewell, 5-10, 185, Jr.; RB/LB Brice Falls, 5-10, 175, Sr.; OL/DL Jadon Underhill, 6-2, 220, Jr.; TE/LB Max Hays, 6-2, 195, Soph.; TE/LB Dane Derksen, 5-11, 175, Sr.
Key losses: FB/LB Logan Minter; OL/DL Josh Underhill; RB/DB Cody Porter; TE Michael Speaks.
Aug. 18 at Clark County
Aug. 25 Macon
Sept. 1 South Shelby
Sept. 8 at Louisiana
Sept. 15 at Highland
Sept. 22 Brookfield
Sept 29 Paris
Oct. 6 at Centralia
Oct. 13 Palmyra
LAST TEN YEARS
Year Overall (Conf.) Coach
2016 11-4 (5-3) David Kirby
2015 3-8 (1-7) David Kirby
2014 8-4 (5-3) David Kirby
2013 3-7 (3-6) David Kirby
2012 1-9 (1-8) Tony DeGrave
2011 7-5 (4-3) Tony DeGrave
2010 4-7 (3-4) Tony DeGrave
2009 6-4 (4-3) Tony DeGrave
2008 8-3 (5-2) Tony DeGrave
2007 5-5 (3-4) Tony DeGrave