Sidney Cowboys and Cowgirls

(Sidney) -- Friday night, the Sidney Cowboys will play their first 11-man football contest since 2001. 

The Cowboys have made the transition from 8-Man to Class A, which has led to adapting from everyone involved, including veteran coach Donnie Sears.

"Obviously, we had to change our systems on every phase of the game," he said. "Not being able to meet with the guys until July really shortened our window."

Sears admits one of the biggest challenges his team has faced in the transition is information overload.

"The most difficult aspect as coaches is what's too much," he said. "Where do you draw the line? It's a fine line of presenting too much information and letting the kids play fast. We're still doing that, but our kids are doing a great job and I really like where we are schematically at this point."

The Cowboys return 81 percent of their passing, rushing and receiving production from last year's 2-7 squad, which could make the transition to the 11-man game a bit smoother.

"We return a lot of skill people," Sears said. "That is really nice to have that experience to fall back on." 

Quarterback Matthew Benedict returns to the mix after for 784 yards and and 10 touchdowns last season. This year will mark Benedict's second year under center for Coach Sears' offense.

"Usually that's when kids make the biggest jump, especially at the quarterback spot," Sears said. "We're hoping Matthew takes that leap. He did a good job last year and we're hoping that he continues to grow."

Senior Tyler Hensley ran for 758 yards and eight scores last year while fullback Cole Stenzel also returns after rushing for 308 yards and five scores. 

The receiving corps returns some key pieces, too, including Hensley (14 catches, 136 yards, 2 scores) and Leighton Whipple (6 catches for 58 yards, 2 TDs).

The biggest void offensively for the Cowboys comes on the offensive line, where they will be tasked with replacing UNI commit Thomas Wilson.

"We have to build some depth at the offensive line and stay healthy," Sears said. "It's just continuing to coach up those young guys and create depth. We need that depth up front. Games are long, the season is long and most games are won and lost up front."

Kenny Osborn, Zachary Sheldon and Isaiah Carpenter will have roles up front for the Cowboys. 

Sidney opens their season against West Monona at home Friday night.

The Spartans were 2-7 last season, but return their leading passer and two of their top-three returning rushers from last year.

Coach Sears admits that he doesn't know much about West Monona, at least their football team. 

"I've watched them in baseball numerous times," Sears said. "They always field strong, athletic teams. They're a lot like us. I'm expecting a really physical football team. You don't know what to expect, but I do know it will be a challenge for us." 

Kent Larsen will be in Sidney Friday night providing updates for the Red Oak Chrysler Connection Show. All Week 1 coverage begins on KMA 960 and KMA-FM 99.1 with at 6:20, beginning with the Barrett Auto Center High School Football Preview Show. 

The complete interview with Coach Sears can be heard below. 

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