High School football: NW Iowa teams prepare for action
SIBLEY, Iowa — One area northwest Iowa high school football team is preparing to go on television.
Another is replacing several key players on offense.
Still another is replacing four first-team All-District players.
And a fourth is trying to bounce back from a 1-8 season.
Central Lyon/George-Little Rock, Sheldon, Harris-Lake Park and Sibley-Ocheyedan are about ready to see what they’re really made of in 2013. CL/G-LR hosts arch-rival West Lyon Thursday in a game that will be televised in six states by the Iowa High School Sports Network. Sheldon opens Friday with a home game against Sioux Central. Harris-Lake Park opens Friday with Corwith-Wesley-LuVerne at Lake Park. And Sibley-Ocheyedan and new head coach Kyle Ewinger go on the road Friday to face Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn.
Here is a rundown of the four northwest Iowa schools’ prospects for 2013:
The Iowa High School Sports Network wanted to televise a good rivalry for their “Agriculture Bowl” telecast. The Lions’ hard-hitting rivalry with their Lyon County counterpart West Lyon fit the bill. So, in an ironic twist to a game local fans had gotten used to calling the “Beef Bowl” for the many beef producers in the area, the IHSSN gave it a name more acceptable to the statewide audience this year’s clash will have.
That’s just fine with CL/G-LR head coach Toby Lorenzen, who couldn’t think of a better way to bring a little more exposure to the excellent football played in his area of the state.
Central Lyon/George-Little Rock posted a 6-4 record last season, however, which is good ... but below the standard that the Lions generally shoot for.
“Our goal always is a district championship. We were extremely disappointed we weren’t in the hunt for that last year,” Lorenzen said, looking ahead to the fall.
Fourteen lettermen return, led by five seniors. Tanner Ver Steeg, a defensive back/split end, is back along with Brent Klingenberg (QB/LB), Jesse Henrich (RB/DB), Nedd Knobloch (OL/DL) and Andrew Metzger (OL).
Klingenberg is expected to rotate offensive snaps with sophomore quarterback Pete Menage. Henrich will be a key to the offensive output after running for about 500 yards and scoring seven touchdowns last season.
Knobloch and Metzger anchor the line, with All-District performer Knobloch coming in at 6-2, 215 pounds and Metzger at 6-3, 230.
The Lions graduated first-team All-State offensive lineman Ben Starr, who’s now playing at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, and second-team All-State running back Josh Hunt, who was the team’s leading rusher for the past two years. But the Lions have that veteran core returning, and there’s some notable talent coming up in the younger grades.
“We’re not going to be as big as we have been. We’re pretty fast, and we’re going to be pretty physical,” Lorenzen said.
The Orabs are coming off a 7-3 season, a second place finish in their district, and all three losses came against solid opponents — one of them against state 2A champion Spirit Lake.
But only three starters return on offense.
The defense figures to be farther along in the early stages. There are five starters returning there, and all five along the front eight in a 4-4 defensive scheme.
“I think early we’re going to have to rely on our defense,” said head coach Matt Meendering. “But offensively (in practice) we’re starting to show some signs that we can move the ball.”
Key returnees for the Orabs are 6-6, 300-pound junior offensive lineman Andy Cooper, 5-11, 190-pound senior running back Hunter McDonald, 6-1, 205-pound fullback Tanner Whitsell.
McDonald was the team’s second-leading rusher and second-leading scorer last season.
There are three options at quarterback for the triple-option Orabs. They include McDonald, who has an outstanding arm to go along with his running prowess, sophomore Colby Kleinhesselink and junior Matt Buenger.
Meendering likes Kleinhesselink’s natural athletic skills and on-field presence and Buenger’s ability to run the option.
The Orabs also have a fine punter in McDonald and a strong kicker in junior Trevor Mayer.
“We hope to duplicate that (7-3 record) or do better. But we lost a lot of talented seniors,” said Meendering.
Sheldon’s first game with Sioux Central — always a determined running team — should be a good first test.
Graduation losses can be difficult to overcome, but when you’ve got a bunch of good athletes anxious to impress, challenges can be met.
Harris-Lake Park met those challenges last season in the 8-man football ranks despite the fact that, at the start of the season, much of the speculation was whether the Wolves could compete after graduating eight key players from a 7-3 squad that competed in the state tournament.
Ah, but they bounced back nicely, posting an 8-3 record.
Again this fall, H-LP enters the fray needing to overcome key losses.
“We lost four first-team All-District players. Those will be big shoes to fill,” said 13th-year head coach Lane Gunderson. “Those four were all skill position players.”
Despite that, Gunderson said the goal this year is to “be in every game.”
Four juniors return with significant playing time. They are running back/linebacker Skylar Cudmore, running back/split end/linebacker Brady Van Iperen, lineman/linebacker Ryan Gembler and guard/noseguard/linebacker Javier Tapia.
Cudmore, at 6-1 and 185 pounds, started at a guard spot during his freshman year. The quick, elusive Van Iperen started last year at safety and played a lot at split end. Gembler started at defensive end last year. And Tapia started at guard.
H-LP also returns junior Kole Ruml at the offensive and defensive line.
Only two seniors are in camp: center/noseguard Dalton Snow and split end/safety Cole Bosma.
“I don’t think our team will be as explosive and get as many quick scores. But I think we’ll play hard and hopefully win some games,” Gunderson said.
After going 4-5 two years ago and falling to 1-8 last season, the Generals are hungry to improve.
To help them do so, first-year head coach Kyle Ewinger is on the job. Ewinger coached in Sioux City, Iowa, for five years where he was defensive coordinator at Sioux City North for three years and head coach at Sioux City West for two. After moving to Omaha, Neb., for a year, he arrived in Sibley to lead the orange and black Generals.
He sets his goals high.
“Our ultimate goal is to be in the top four of our district and make the playoffs. I think it’s realistic ... I definitely think we’ve got some talent.”
Five seniors graduated. Eight lettermen are back.
The Generals have senior quarterback/free safety Owen Wiese at 6-0, 180 pounds. Also on hand: 6-1, 175-pound senior running back/linebacker Dalton Frick; 5-10, 215-pound senior offensive lineman/linebacker Jose Olvera; 6-3, 225-pound junior tight end/linebacker Josh Wagenaar; and 5-10, 210-pound junior quarterback/linebacker Ethan Myno.
Ewinger said he’ll run sets employing the quarterbacking talents of both Wiese and Myno. Plays will be run out of multiple formations, but he’s striving for a good balance of run and pass.
The Generals plan to be a physical team. The linebackers are fast and they flow well to the ball, says the first-year mentor.
The players are also a hard-working bunch and dedicated weightlifters — another fact that Ewinger said gives him optimism.
“We’ve created a very positive environment, and they’re really feeding off that,” the coach explained.