Chargers return size, experienceWESTBROOK — After winning just seven of 18 games over the past two seasons, the Westbrook-Walnut Grove Chargers may be on the upswing this fall.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WESTBROOK — After winning just seven of 18 games over the past two seasons, the Westbrook-Walnut Grove Chargers may be on the upswing this fall.
In 15 seasons as co-head coaches together, Leo Theisen and Carter Ross have only experienced four campaigns with records below .500.
W-WG, which was an impressive 26-5 over three straight Southern Confederacy Conference championships in 2006, 2007 and 2008, won a state 9-man championship with a perfect 13-0 record in 2000.
Twice in the 1980s — 1982 and 1985 —Westbrook won state titles in 9-man football.
The tradition has been obvious, so last season’s 3-6 record was a bit unusual.
“We lost two heartbreakers, which we should have won,” Theisen said about last season. “If we win those two games —where we had the lead until the final minutes — we finish 5-4, which would have been pretty good for a young squad.”
The Chargers are still a bit young this year, but they are experienced and have the largest roster the school has had in recent seasons.
“We’ve got good numbers,” Theisen said. “This year’s senior class is the last of three in a row, which didn’t have many football players.”
The Chargers have just five senior veterans, but 12 juniors, eight sophomores and 11 freshmen give W-WG a 36-player roster.
The five seniors include running back/linebacker Dana Madson, who earned all-conference honors last year as a 165-pounder. This year, Madson has added 25 pounds to his six-foot frame and is ready for the new season.
“Dana’s so much bigger and stronger,” praised Theisen. “He’s the real deal — a very good football player. He is our middle linebacker and will be running the ball a lot more on offense as we return to a more conventional attack.”
Jon Elzenga (5-9, 160) is back as W-WG’s quarterback after missing several games with injuries last season.
Running back Andy Merrick (5-8, 160) gives the Chargers three seniors in the offensive backfield, which Theisen said will be able to return to the basics behind an experienced line with size.
“We have some size back and should be able to hold our own up front,” Theisen declared. “In the last two years, we had trouble controlling the line of scrimmage.”
While just two seniors — guard Reed Bakken (6-0, 180) and end Aaron Hass (6-3, 190) — return to the line, several others played extensively last season.
Junior Levi Bunting (6-2, 180), an outstanding hurdler during track season, joins Hass as the other tight end.
“We have nice bookends returning on our offensive line,” praised Thiesen. “Levi and Aaron can each block well, run pass patterns, catch the ball and break tackles. Our ends are solid.”
Junior Shane Buchman (6-2, 190) is Elzenga’s backup at QB and is also challenging Bunting and Hass at the end positions.
Tony Schoborg (6-0, 235) is a sophomore offensive tackle who spent 37 sessions in the weight room this summer.
“He’s better and stronger,” declared Theisen about Schoborg. “He was pretty good as a freshman, starting on defense at the end of last season.”
Sophomores Lane Anderson (6-3, 225) and Logan Weis (6-1, 220) will also see time up front for the Chargers, working in for Bakken and Schoborg.
Sophomore Mitch Jarmer (5-8, 185) and junior Andrew Pederson (6-1, 210) are the leading contenders for the starting slot as W-WG’s offensive center.
A trio of juniors are battling for the wide receiver position, including newcomer Sean McCrosky (5-10, 150), Matt Otto (5-11, 175) and Tyson Berg (5-10, 150).
“We’ll have some depth among our receivers,” declared Theisen, who noted that Otto will also see action as a running back.
On defense, Hass and Bunting return as the starting ends, while Schoborg, Weis and Anderson — all sophomores — will share time at the two interior spots on the defensive line.
As mentioned, Madson is the middle linebacker and may be flanked by Bakken and Otto. Both Jarmer and junior Eli Gundermann (5-11, 130) are “not afraid to mix things up,” either.
Merrick moves from the “cover corner” to safety, while Elzenga draws the assignment of playing cornerback.
Otto, Berg and McCroskey each will play in the defensive secondary when needed, and the versatile Buchman will be utilized as a defensive end.
Merrick, Madson, McCroskey and Otto are listed as the Chargers’ leading returners. Madson will do the punting and Hass will kickoff, as well as booting PATs and field goals.
“We have a lot of guys doing a lot of things,” summed up Theisen. “But, we’re going to turn our horses loose and let them do their thing. We think we have the makings of a good group, and we hope we can build some early confidence.”
The Chargers opened at Granada (Aug. 31) versus the combination of Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman. They will host Fulda Sept. 7.