H-BC has only 25 on roster, but 11 are seniorsHILLS — The total numbers in Hills-Beaver Creek’s camp are down slightly from last season when the Patriots enjoyed an 8-2 overall record, but there are still plenty of reasons for optimism in the very far southwest corner of the state as the 2012 high school football campaign gets under way.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
HILLS — The total numbers in Hills-Beaver Creek’s camp are down slightly from last season when the Patriots enjoyed an 8-2 overall record, but there are still plenty of reasons for optimism in the very far southwest corner of the state as the 2012 high school football campaign gets under way.
H-BC had 32 players on its roster last year, including 10 seniors who contributed greatly to the Patriots’ success. There are 25 players on the roster this fall, but 11 of them are seniors who appear ready to help maintain H-BC’s strong tradition on the gridiron.
“We won’t be as deep this year as we were last year, but we have enough guys to be competitive,” summed up H-BC head coach Rex Metzger, who is in his third season at the helm. “Some of the guys we have are very experienced players, and some of them will be fairly new to the varsity level. It’s a fresh start, though, and everyone will have lots of opportunities to contribute throughout the season.”
Among the players that the Patriots lose to graduation include Daily Globe All-Area selections Jordan Larson (1,532 yards and 23 touchdowns at quarterback) and Taylor Leuthold (97 tackles at middle linebacker).
However, H-BC has a few key players to build around in seniors Dalton Bass (6-0, 180), Jeff Sandbulte (6-0, 187) and Bill Horsman (6-3, 235).
Bass starts at safety on defense and returns for his third year as the Patriots’ workhorse running back. Bass, who was named the Offensive Player of the Year in the Southern Confederacy Conference last season, was also selected to the Daily Globe All-Area team after rushing for 1,339 yards on 144 carries and scoring a total of 29 touchdowns in 2011.
“Dalton is a great running back who is capable of scoring whenever he touches the ball,” Metzger said. “There is always the threat of a big play when he has the ball in his hands, as he can make guys miss and snap off a long run with his speed and power.”
Sandbulte returns with experience at tight end and outside linebacker. Horsman is back to anchor H-BC’s offensive line as the starting center.
“Jeff had a good year for us on both sides last season, and Bill was solid in the middle of our offensive line,” Metzger said. “We’ll look to those guys for more of the same type of leadership and production on the field.”
Competing for the two guard spots on either side of Horsman up front are seniors Zach Wagenaar (5-10, 180), Jon Gallagher (6-6, 268) and Jacob Conger (5-11, 180), as well as junior Jeff Nelson (6-0, 270) and sophomore Dalton Klarenbeek (6-0, 190).
“Everything starts up front with those guys, as we will have to establish some continuity there,” Metzger said. “We’ll be able to move the ball and do some different things if we are solid along the offensive line.”
Seniors Justin Kerkhove-Brandt (5-11, 165) and Jared Lingen (6-2, 156) will both see time as the tight end opposite of Sandbulte, while senior Nathan Taubert (6-7, 180), junior Isaac Tilstra (5-10, 144), sophomore Braden Ellingson (6-0, 161) and sophomore Carey Taubert (6-4, 167) are the Patriots’ top candidates at wide receiver.
Senior Tate Bork (5-11, 181) and junior Caleb Vis (5-9, 165) are projected to get carries as running backs, while junior quarterback Dylan Gehrke (5-11, 162) takes over for Larson as H-BC’s signal-caller.
“Dylan is a real athletic kid who can make plays,” Metzger said. “We’re confident that he will be able do a great job of leading our offense.”
With a limited number of players on the roster, the Patriots will have a lot of offensive starters also filling out the defensive lineup regularly. Nelson, Gallagher, Conger and Klarenbeek will split time in the trenches as defensive tackles.
Nathan Taubert, Lingen and Kerkhove-Brandt are penciled in as defensive ends, with Carey Taubert providing depth off the edge. Bork and Vis will play at inside linebacker, while Wagenaar joins Sandbulte as an outside linebacker.
Bass patrols the secondary from his safety position, while Gehrke will man a spot at cornerback. Ellingson will also see time in the defensive backfield, and Tilstra and sophomore Noah Holthaus (5-10, 179) — who is also the Patriots’ backup quarterback — are projected to see action as reserve linebackers.
“There is the possibility that we might take a few lumps early in the season, as we will have some younger kids playing quite a bit,” Metzger said. “But we think that our guys will be able to develop their skills and improve their confidence throughout the season, helping to put our team in a position to be competitive on a weekly basis.”
H-BC opened the season with a home game against Randolph Thursday and will welcome the Edgerton/Ellsworth Flying Dutchmen — last year’s Class 9-man state champions — to Hills for a key game Friday night.