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High school football: Little Sioux Conference packed with talent

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Les Knutson

Daily Globe

Year after year, one of the state’s best high school football conferences is the Little Sioux, which consists mostly of Class A teams in the southwestern corner of Minnesota.

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Two years ago, Dawson-Boyd won the Class A state championship and in 2009 a pair of Little Sioux teams played each other in the Prep Bowl with Minneota defeating Adrian for the Class A state title.

Both Minneota and D-B, a pair of perennial powers, are loaded again this season, as is Russell-Tyler-Ruthton.

Lac qui Parle Valley, a Class AA school, joins the league this year, returning the conference to a full 10 teams.

MACCRAY, Canby and Lakeview are also members of the league, as are area schools Adrian, Murray County Central and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton.

Here’s a quick look at those three teams:

Adrian Dragons

As always, expect Adrian to look at establishing a solid rushing attack and play an aggressive style of defense.

The Dragons have had much success under Randy Strand, who is in 29th season as the AHS head football coach, including playing in the Prep Bowl four times.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Nowotny has been Strand’s sidekick nearly that entire time and is also back for another season with the Dragons.

Adrian was edged in a close game (15-12) by St. Clair in the Section 3A championship game last season. There were only five seniors on that team, which played in the school’s sixth consecutive section title game and finished with an 8-3 record, going 6-2 in the Little Sioux.

But those five –– Jake Tiede, Jake Diekmann, Adam Garms, Nate Loosbrock and Jordan Preuss –– did a lot of good things in their stellar careers for the Dragons.

“All five of them were good all-around football players, who we will miss,” Strand said. “But, that happens every year and we have a good group coming back with lots of experience and we will strive to be competitive again.”

Sophomore Logan Rogers (5-10, 160) returns as Adrian’s starting quarterback and senior Jordan Dingmann (5-9, 150) will again get lots of carries as the Dragons’ tailback.

Senior Dillon John (6-0, 185) moves from center to fullback and will be Dingmann’s lead blocker on lots of plays.

Along the line, the Dragons have good depth, which is one of the team’s strengths.

Junior Ben Henning (5-5, 165) will play center, with junior Jesse Slater (6-0, 175) and senior Andy McCann (5-11, 175) at the guards. Sophomore Matt Slater (6-0, 160) and junior Tony Sieve (5-11, 165) are Adrian’s starting offensive tackles and senior Jordan Bertrand (5-11, 180) is the tight end.

Senior Dawson White (5-8, 165) lines up at split end and senior Jacob Bullerman-Diekmann (5-7, 150) is the Dragons’ wingback.

Juniors Brady Lonneman (6-3, 150) and Cody Polzine (5-10, 145) will contribute in a variety of ways and a trio of linemen –– junior Tanner Kamm (6-0, 205), senior Austin Kamm (6-1, 285) and junior Quinn Cleveland (5-11, 207) –– are ready to play both ways up front for the Dragons.

Tanner Kamm will do the punting and kicking for Adrian, while Dingmann, White and Polzine are expected to be among the players who will return opposing punts and kicks.

Adrian opens tonight at Canby.

Tracy-Milroy-Balaton

After competing in Section 3AA for several seasons, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton moves down a class for this year’s postseason to 3A.

“The move down is a great change for our program,” says Derek Flann, who is again co-coaching the Panthers with Randy McIntire. “Our players know it won’t be easy, but we feel like we are playing on a more level field now instead of trying to ice skate uphill. We are aware that we were 0-2 against Section 3A teams last year, with losses to MCC and Adrian.”

The Panthers were 4-4 last year in the Little Sioux, but lost to Pipestone Area in the first round of the AA playoffs.

Parker Lanoue passed for over 1,900 yards last season, including 22 touchdown tosses and Alec Swan rushed for more than 2,000 yards in his career.

Those two, along with leading tackler Austin Peterson and two-way starting linemen Tommy Nelson and Mike Nilius, were outstanding players who graduated off of last year’s team.

A solid group of receivers, who combined caught over 100 balls last season, returns as a bright spot for this year’s Panthers, giving new quarterback Brett Swenhaugen a variety of targets.

Swenhaugen (175) is just a sophomore, but did T-M-B’s punting last season and also played some as an outside linebacker.

He is showing lots of improvement as a quarterback, according to Flann.

“Brett has looked good running the ball and is becoming more comfortable throwing it –– if he can get our receivers the ball in space they can make him look very good.”

Seniors Zach Seaton (145) and Eric Donner (165), along with sophomore Josh Kirk (180) and junior Austin Gleis (150) are T-M-B’s veteran receivers.

Kirk, who plays tight end on offense, led the Panthers in sacks last season and returns as a defensive end. Junior Tristan Varpness (190) also started on T-M-B’s defensive line last season and senior middle linebacker Gavin Van Moer (190) is the team’s leading returning tackler.

“We are excited about the team we have coming back,” summed up Flann. “We have some holes to fill in our backfield, but we bring back a lot of starters on our defense. We also have five offensive linemen returning who started at least one game.”

T-M-B hosts MACCRAY tonight in the season opener for both teams.

Murray County Central

Travis VanOverbeke, a 2000 graduate of Marshall High School, is the new head football at Murray County Central.

The Rebels graduated a lot of talented players –– including running back Jack Thony, who scored multiple touchdowns in most games –– from last year’s squad.

Although there are just five seniors on this year’s roster, MCC has a total of 43 boys competing for varsity playing time, including a strong sophomore class which has experienced success in other sports.

Senior Seth Bass (5-10, 160) brings back a bundle of experience as MCC’s quarterback and will be joined in the Rebel backfield by seniors Tyler Scotting (5-11, 180) and Mitch Reinsma (5-8, 160).

Scotting, who had a fine track season for the Rebels last spring, missed several 2012 football games with an injury.

“He has good speed and strength and is eager to get involved this year,” said VanOverbeke about Scotting.

“Mitch has good speed, too, and knows what to do when he gets the ball.”

Bass –– whose dad, Tim Bass, was a two-time state champion in the high hurdles for Windom in the mid-1980s –– also has good speed.

Junior Logan Kluis (5-11, 165) is a very versatile player who gives the Rebels another offensive weapon.

On the line, MCC has several players competing for positions, giving indications of good depth in the trenches.

Juniors Ryan Vos (6-1, 200) and Jordan Ahlers (6-0, 210) are among the leaders on the line of scrimmage for the Rebels, along with sophomore Wyatt Heezen (5-9, 200).

“We have lots of new faces on the line this year and do have some size, but we will be young,” notes VanOverbeke, who is seeking steady improvement from the Rebels.

“We play in a tough conference,” he concluded. “But, we want to be competitive in each game –– for the whole 48 minutes –– and inch our way to the top by working hard and doing things right.”

MCC hosts Lac qui Parle Valley tonight, starting at 8 p.m.

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