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High school football: H-LP gridders aiming for success

Running back Thor Larson, 4, is just shy of a Harris-Lake Park first down at a 2015 northwest Iowa high school football game against Graettinger-Terrill-RA. The Wolves hope to make a strong challenge in 2016. FILE PHOTO

LAKE PARK, Iowa -- You’ve gotta play defense and you’ve got to be able to score points. Lane Gunderson believes his Harris-Lake Park Wolves can do all of that in 2016, and that’s why he’s excited about the start of the high school football season.

After posting a 4-5 record in 2015, the Wolves are stocked with experience this fall. The goals are high: to win the district and to do well in the playoffs.

“I think we’ll be outstanding on defense. I think we have a lot of outstanding tacklers,” Gunderson said. “Offensively, we’re really diverse. We can line it up and pound it at you. But if you’re determined to stop the run, we’ve got guys that can get open and make the big plays in the passing game, too.”

Friday is the start of the 2016 high school football season for northwest Iowa teams. Harris-Lake Park will host North Iowa at 7 p.m. Other 7 p.m. starts have Sibley-Ocheyedan at arch-rival Sheldon and Central Lyon/George-Little Rock at West Lyon.

Harris-Lake Park returns several experienced players who hope to make good on Gunderson’s lofty expectations. Among them are seniors Jordan Kyle (end), Cale Hellinga (TE-SE/S), juniors Trevor Gunderson (RB/LB), Keegan Carpenter (FB/MLB), Bret Sohn (C/DE), Zach Heikens (G/LB) and Braeton Nitzschke (G/NG). Kyle, a big 6-4, 220-pounder, has been playing on varsity since his freshman year. Carpenter led the team in tackles last year.

The quarterback will be Bryce Perkins, a junior who also plays linebacker. Perkins showed fans that he was up to the task of quarterbacking late last season, adding to Gunderson’s optimism for the 2016 campaign after a year in which key injuries sapped the team’s strength.

“These guys have all played a lot as young guys and have been competitive,” the coach said.

Elsewhere on the northwest Iowa scene, the Central Lyon/George-Little Rock Lions again hope to be among the best. Few programs can match CL/G-LR’s winning history, and although the team posted a fairly average 7-5 record in 2015, expectations are always high for veteran coach Toby Lorenzen’s bunch.

Leading the team this year will be three-year starters Riley Van Wyhe, Mitch Van Beek and Jaydon Baker. Van Wyhe threw for 240 yards and three touchdowns as a quarterback last season, was the team’s second-leading rusher and the leading receiver. Van Beek made three interceptions from his safety spot on defense and is a top return man. Baker was the Lions’ second leading tackler in 2015 and had seven sacks.

Central Lyon/George-Little Rock graduated key performers on offense in quarterback Pete Menage and tailback C.J. Roths. The run game will be by committee.

But the goal is always the same: win the district. Class 2A, District 1 has had a team playing for the state championship in nine of the last 11 seasons, and CL/G-LR hopes to work its way into the mix.

Sibley-Ocheyedan hopes to improve on a 3-6 season with first-year head coach Dan Spooner. The Generals will be led by seniors Garrett Sayler, Caleb Freeman, Matt Naig and Trent Kruger. Sayler threw for 1,072 yards and nine touchdowns last year at quarterback. Freeman and Naig lead a good-sized group of linemen. Kruger was the team’s second-leading tackler at linebacker in 2015.

The Generals have less than 40 players on the roster, making depth a concern. But the core product appears solid.

Sibley-Ocheyedan’s arch-rival to the south, Sheldon, went winless in nine games last fall. Despite that, the Orabs filled their roster to 48 players for 2016, and the offensive line is experienced with the return of seniors Cody Cooper, Parker Nissen and Dominic Seivert, and juniors Kyle Goerhave and Ryan Van Marel.

Junior quarterback Jaden Kleinhesselink returns after scoring 12 touchdowns a year ago. Alex Zoelle, a senior, led the team in tackles last year at linebacker.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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