High school football: Southern Confederacy West figures to be wild
There will be a total of 14 teams competing this fall in one of the state’s premier Nine-Man high school football conferences — the Southern Confederacy.
The league is split into two divisions, east and west, with six teams in the Daily Globe coverage area competing in the highly-competitive west section.
The seven teams in the SCE are Alden-Conger, Cleveland, Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman, Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton, Madelia, Nicollet and Randolph.
Edgerton/Ellsworth, Fulda, Hills-Beaver Creek, Mountain Lake Area, Renville County West, Southwestern United and Westbrook-Walnut Grove are the seven teams competing in the SCW.
Each team will play all six of the teams within its division, along with two games against teams from the opposite section.
RCW is the only western division team not covered by the Daily Globe.
Here’s a brief look at the six teams in the area:
With a high-powered offense and an experienced defense, the Patriots rolled through the 2012 conference schedule undefeated, dethroning Edgerton/Ellsworth for the league title.
But, 11 seniors — including running back Dalton Bass (now doing more of the same at the University of Sioux Falls) — graduated from that stellar 9-1 team.
Bass, who was named the SCW’s Offensive Player of the Year during both his junior and senior campaigns, scored 80 touchdowns and rushed for 3,961 yards during his remarkable career for H-BC.
Jeff Sandbulte, Zach Wagenaar, Tate Bork, Nathan Taubert, Bill Horsman, Jared Lingen, Justin Kerkhove-Brandt, Jacob Conger, Jon Gallagher and David Carr were also seniors last fall and not wear the Patriot colors this fall.
“We graduated seven starters on both offense and defense,” said H-BC head coach Rex Metzger. “Dylan Gehrke returns as our quarterback after having a great junior year and Jeff Nelson, a two-way starting lineman, is also back with great size and quickness for a big man.”
Nelson, a senior who is listed at 6-1, 287, plays guard on offense and tackle on defense.
“We should pretty solid up front,” Metzger said. “We hope to get better every game. We have some good athletes at key positions, but with only 22 guys on our roster, we lack both depth and experience. We will have a lot of new faces on the field this year.”
Gehrke (6-0, 175) passed for 1,300 yards last season and fired 18 touchdown passes while being intercepted only five times all season.
Among the other top players returning for the Patriots are junior wide receiver/defensive back Braden Ellingson (6-1, 175), junior wider receiver/defensive end Carey Taubert (6-5, 181), senior running back/linebacker Caleb Vis (5-9, 181), junior two-way lineman Dalton Klarenbeek (6-0, 209), senior tight ened/linebacker Isaac Tilstra (5-10, 150) and junior two-way lineman Noah Holthaus (5-10, 200).
The Patriots make the long journey to Randolph to open their season Thursday and will begin division action Sept. 6 with a clash againt rival Edgerton/Ellsworth at Edgerton.
The combination of Edgerton and Ellsworth has enjoyed remarkable success over the past decade, advancing to the section finals eight times in the last nine years, winning five titles.
The Flying Dutchmen were 9-2 last season, coming off a perfect 14-0 campaign — an undefeated state championship — in 2011.
E/E was 11-1 in 2010, taking an undefeated record into the first round of the state tournament before being defeated by Lanesboro.
With a strong tradition and a solid off-season work ethic, the Dutchmen look to be a strong contender again this season.
“We graduated a great group of players off of last year’s team, who were important pieces of the puzzle over the last two seasons,” said E/E head coach Andrew Fleischman. “But our returning kids have worked hard in the weight room, preparing for the new season.”
Isaac Heard, Derek Voge, Blake Jouwstra, Devin Hulstein, DC Claar and Austin LaFollette are among the key players not back this season for E/E.
“We have lots of good guys back, too,” stressed Fleishman. “We’re working on improving their playing skills and believe that we will have a competitive team again.”
Senior running back/linebacker Jorge Lopez (5-10, 200), who was mostly a return specialist last season, has packed on the pounds and will be a featured back for the Dutchmen this fall.
Senior Austin Mertens (6-4, 230), who plays guard on offense and tackle on defense, was selected as the SCW’s Lineman of the Year in 2012.
Senior Nate Paulsen, who backed up Heard last year, takes over as E/E’s quarterback and rugged junior Tyler Kurrasch (190) returns for a third-year as a starting linebacker.
Kurrasch will join Lopez in the offensive backfield, giving Fleishman a pair of good-sized running backs.
“Both those guys can run the ball hard and bounce off of some tacklers,” declared Fleishman about Lopez and Kurrasch. “Nate can do some things well as a quarterback and is very strong for his size.”
Senior Wyatt Schaap (guard/linebacker) is also a key two-way starter being counted on for strong contributions for the Dutchmen this season.
E/E opens with a trip east Thursday to tangle with Alden-Conger. The Dutchmen host H-BC Sept. 6.
Mountain Lake Area
In their first year of pairing (Mountain Lake and Mountain Lake Christian), the Wolverines enjoyed a banner season in 2012.
MLA won the Section 2A title, advancing to the state tournament. A quarterfinal loss to Grand Meadow, ending the Wolverines’ first season of Nine-Man football with an overall record of 9-3.
MLA was 6-2 in the conference with its only two losses to perennial powers H-BC and E/E.
With a bundle of experienced players returning, expectations are high for MLA this campaign.
“We have a lot of experience coming back, which gives us high expectations for a successful year,” sums up 11th-year head Tim Kirk, whose son Carter returns for another season as MLA’s quarterback.
Now a senior, listed at 6-7, 230, Carter Kirk is being highly-recruited by colleges and will lead a talented Wolverine squad, which has size, skill, speed and depth.
Senior linemen Josh Grev (6-0, 190) and Vince Johnson (5-11, 205), a pair of two-way starting linemen, are two of MLA’s key returning players.
Senior running back/linebacker Andrew Hempeck (6-1, 175) and senior running back/defensive end Demar Rodney (5-10, 195) give the Wolverines a pair of experienced ball carriers and wide receiver/defensive back Levi Kass (5-7, 140) and junior tight end/linebacker Eric Wenner (6-2, 195) are a couple of capable targets for Kirk to throw the ball to.
Junior Jacob Junker (6-0, 180) returns as an offensive lineman and can be a bruising tackler as a linebacker on MLA’s defense.
With a total of 25 players (14 seniors, 11 juniors) from the top two grades, the Wolverines may have the best depth in the conference.
“It looks like we will have some much-needed depth,” concludes Kirk. “We have lots of guys who will be able to contribute.”
MLA also travels east for its opener, playing Friday night against J-W-P.
The Wolverines host RCW Sept. 6 and then begin division action by traveling to H-BC for a SCW clash Sept. 13.
Westbrook-Walnut Grove is another program with a storied tradition, including several state championships.
The Chargers finished 4-5 overall last fall and were an even 4-4 in the conference.
Dana Madson, Andy Merrick, Aaron Hass and John Elzenga are four key players who graduated, but W-WG returns a total of 20 juniors and seniors this year, leading to lots of optimism in the Chargers’ camp.
“This is the largest group of upperclassmen we have had since 2009,” exclaimed veteran co-head coach Leo Theisen, who shares duty with Carter Ross. “Some of these guys were injured last year, but should become major contributors this season. We have great size and depth, giving us the potential to compete with the top teams.”
Senior tight end/defensive end Levi Bunting (6-2, 185) had a fine all-around season last year and earned Daily Globe All-Area honorable mention honors.
Running back/linebacker Matt Otto (5-11, 180), quarterback/defensive end Shane Buchman (6-2, 195), running back/linebacker Eli Gunderman (5-11, 145) and wide receiver/defensive Tyson Berg (5-11, 165) — all seniors — are among the players returning with game-tested experience.
Juniors Tyler Schoborg (6-0, 210), Logan Weis (6-1, 220) and Lane Anderson (6-3, 235) give the Chargers a trio of good-sized linemen who move well.
Junior quarterback/safety Tristan Joel (5-10, 160) also contributed for the Chargers in 2012. His athleticism is expected to give W-WG some offensive options this year
Seniors Brody Williams (6-2, 185) and Andrew Pederson (6-1, 210) have also looked good as linemen in practices, while sophomore Jake Otto (5-11, 190) may see action at quarterback and linebacker.
The Benson brothers — Andrew and Matthew (6-0, 150), both seniors — will each play as offensive wide receivers and defensive safeties.
Junior fullback/linebacker Mitchell Jarmer (5-11, 190), senior wide receiver/defensive back Sean McCroskey (6-0, 165) and freshman tailback/defensive back Anthony Kock (5-5, 160) are among other players who will help the Chargers this fall.
“Our line is a strong point and we have lots of depth among our receivers,” summed up Theisen. “We looked good in a pre-season scrimmage last week and are looking to playing games.”
W-WG’s season-opening game vs. G-H-EC/Truman (Thursday at Westbrook) has been moved back to an 8 p.m. start time due to this week’s high heat and humidity.
The Chargers will tangle with Fulda (there) in both team’s SCW opener Sept. 6.
Seven returning lettermen are back for the Fulda Raiders, again co-coached by Greg Erdmann and Michael Pagel.
Four senior veterans — Matt Thier (6-3, 267), Ryan Schumacher (6-2, 240), Jared Smith (6-3, 190) and Joey Voss (5-11, 225) — will likely see action both ways for the Raiders, who have just 23 players (grade 9-12) on their roster.
Voss will play as a linebacker on defense and will join the other three along the offensive line, which is anchored by Smith at the center position.
A trio of juniors who lettered last season include running back/linebacker Bennett Appel (6-3, 175), offensive lineman/linebacker Rylan Baumhoefner (5-10, 240) and two-way lineman Tom Salentiny (6-2, 298).
Senior Josh Ramerth (6-4, 195) is a good all-around athlete who is a new addition for the Raiders this season and is listed as a wide receiver/defensive back.
Junior Jordan White (5-11, 170) has also joined the team this year and will play as an offensive running back and a defensive back.
Sophomore Brian Fenske (6-1, 175) will take over the quarterback duties for the Raiders and will also play as a defensive back.
The Raiders have just 10 upperclassmen (six seniors, four juniors) on their roster.
“We return good size and experience on the line on both sides of the ball,” summed up Erdmann. “We have a well-balanced team with a positive outlook about the upcoming season.
“It’s always fun watching kids step up and fill positions, replacing the players who graduated. We will be looking to experienced linemen to set the tone and provide leadership.”
Fulda opens the season at home Thursday, hosting Cleveland and will host W-WG in divison action Sept. 6.
Leading the Wildcats this fall will be a pair of junior linemen who played both ways for SWU as sophomores in 2012.
Jon Hussong (6-2, 225) and Austin Milbrath (5-11, 185) will again man offensive guard positions and also be key members of the defensive line.
Playing between Hussong and Milbrath on the offensive line is sophomore center Angel Esqueda (5-10, 190), while junior Hunter Timko (5-9, 145) and sophomore Marcelo Esqueda (5-10, 185) flank the two veterans as the Wildcat offensive ends.
Skyler Sievert (5-10, 150), one of only four seniors on the SWU roster, has earned the nod as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback.
“Skyler is a good athlete who likes football and is becoming a fine all-around player,” says co-head coach Jason Fisher, who for the 11th season is sharing duties with Jeff Drent in charge of the Wildcats.
Sievert played sparingly as a defensive back last season, but is bigger and stronger this season and will play most of each game, manning an outside linebacker position for SWU when opponents have the ball.
Running the ball will be junior tailback Jacob Getzel (5-8, 170), while classmate Jordon Hall (5-10, 165) will lead him through the holes as the Wildcat fullback.
Another junior, Branden O’Connor (5-10, 150) — a solid tackler — returns as a defensive back/outside linebacker and will play the wingback position on the Wildcats’ offense.
Seniors Levi Taylor (6-5, 195), Christian Mariscal (5-6, 170) and Derek Durst (5-9, 180) along with sophomore Matthew Poppe (6-3, 230), give the Wildcats additional depth along the line of scrimmage. Junior Dakota Schmid (6-2, 170) is a very versatile player, who will play an outside linebacker on defense and can play several offensive positions.
“The kids have been awesome,” summed up Fisher, who is pleased with how well practices have been going. “This team is very coachable and willing to learn and improve.”
The Wildcats host Nicollet in their season opener (at Brewster) Thursday and will travel to Granada for its next game Sept. 6 against G-H-EC/Truman.