C-T 2019 AREA HS FOOTBALL PREVIEWS: Former Gallatin coach, who led an Omaha team to a Nebraska state title last year, comes back to greatly-expanded league, hoping to make its largest-enrollment school into perennial gridiron force

TRENTON, Mo. — The familiar face of Kevin Hixson returns to the Grand River Conference in 2019 as new Trenton Bulldogs head coach, even if, after its large-scale expansion three years ago, the GRC conference bears only limited resemblance to the loop he last saw nearly 20 years ago.
His task – turn the revamped league’s largest-by-far school Trenton into the gridiron giant many anticipated it would be when it joined three years ago. To do that, he says the focus since his arrival in early June has been on effort, toughness, and commitment.
Hixson, who guided old and new GRC member Gallatin’s football fortunes from 1992-2002, comes to THS after Chillicothe High alumnus Brandon Boswell’s five Bulldogs teams generated a 24-27 cumulative ledger which included a GRC-East co-championship in 2016 –  Trenton’s first year in the league, but then only a break-even ledger the past two falls.
Hixson  comes back to Missouri – where he also previously has been head coach at Carrollton, Southern Boone County, Fairfax, and El Dorado Springs – after guiding Burke High of Omaha to a Nebraska state championship a year ago. His teams’ cumulative overall marks are a lofty 108-42 in 17 previous years.
Personnel-wise, Trenton’s only all-GRC-E first-teamers of 2018 – TE/LB Jaden Whitney and OL Hunter Trask – are graduated. However, all-district/second-team all-GRC-E tight end Jaren Whitney and all-district/all-GRE-C honorable mention running back Mark Trump are back, with Jar. Whitney switching to fullback, according to Hixson.
Also returning is all-league honorable mentionee 2-way lineman Carson Burchett (6’3”, 265, sr.), as well as 2018 starting quarterback Sam Schilling.
Two of C. Burchett’s fellow seniors – Noah Lewis and Jerrick Stotts – will start with him on the offensive line, joined by a couple of underclassmen – possibly including a sophomore.
Senior Dalton Burchett and junior Royce Jackson will be the ends in the run-heavy “flexbone” offense Hixson uses, a change from the split-T “veer” Boswell utilized. Sophomore Tyler Siemer will be at running back with Trump.
On defense, C. Burchett and Stotts will be the tackles in the 4-man front, with Jackson and D. Burchett at the ends, the coach states
Holdovers Trump and Lewis will be the anchors at linebacker, joined on the outside by junior Payden McCullough. In the secondary, Jaren Whitney will be the free safety and Siemer the strong. Even as game play gets underway, several figure to get game-speed looks at cornerback, Hixson notes.
“The kids have been really receptive and grasped hold of everything we’re trying to do, on and off the field,” he said in a broadcast interview recently. “… We really pushed them this summer and they’ve stepped up and answered that call.”
Trenton comes out of last week’s “jamboree” scrimmages against Lee’s Summit: Summit Christian Academy, Knob Noster, and Windsor without a lot of positive momentum, having been outscored by the latter two before faring a bit better against SCA, but Hixson downplayed it beforehand anyway, calling the event a “glorified practice.”
Of the Grand River-East title race in his first year back in the league, Hixson comments, “The conference looks pretty good overall. I’m not sure where we fit in.”
Milan is the defending GRC-E champion and, with five returning all-league first-teamers – including senior quarterback Ryan Dabney, figures as the favorite with Gallatin and South Harrison possibly leading the pursuit.