TOPEKA (KSNT)- Washburn Rural football won a share of the Centennial League title in 2021 for the first time since 1996.

This piece of success has the Junior Blues feeling like they belong at the top.

“They got a taste of it,” head coach Steve Buhler said. “Now they want to get back and win it all out without any kind of sharing with anybody.”

WRHS finished the 2021 season with an 8-2 overall record.

“It kind of makes us all really excited, because we know what we can do now,” returning starting quarterback Branton DeWeese said. “I think we all kind of gained some confidence from last year.”

However, that league title celebration was quickly cut short with a 32-point loss at Regionals that ended their season earlier than expected.

“Just made us hungrier,” senior linebacker Ty Weber said. “We know that every game can go the other way.”

The pain of the tough loss left them eager to get back on the field.

“Definitely puts a little fight in all of us,” junior running back JC Heim said. “A little chip on our shoulder, knowing where we got to go. It definitely hurt last year, losing to [Lawrence] Free State. But we know what we got to do to come back and be stronger and better.”

The team returns almost all its top players. That includes the lethal one-two running back punch of Heim and senior Ma’Kenttis Adams.

“Having both of them available is going to be a lot of fun,” Buhler said.

Plus, DeWeese started at QB last year as just a sophomore. He’s back with high goals for himself. Lastly, but certainly not least, is Amr Sabbarini, who led the team in receptions and receiving yards last fall is back for what he hopes will be a big junior year.

“He’s a strong kid,” Buhler said. “He’s put together pretty well. What’s nice about him is he’s worked really hard at learning how to run really good routes.”

The players on this year’s team understand their role and go all out on every single rep, Weber says. Heim agrees.

“Be ready, because we got a lot of hard working guys and it’s going to be a fun year,” Heim said.

The Junior Blues open their season at Wichita East on September 2.