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Iowa prep football: H-LP hopes for another banner year: S-O starts with Sheldon

LAKE PARK, Iowa -- A quick glance at the roster of the 2017 Harris-Lake Park high school football team is all you need to determine that, after a remarkable 2016 campaign, the cupboard has not been rendered bare. That's the way it is sometimes wi...

 

LAKE PARK, Iowa -- A quick glance at the roster of the 2017 Harris-Lake Park high school football team is all you need to determine that, after a remarkable 2016 campaign, the cupboard has not been rendered bare.

That’s the way it is sometimes with great teams: many of them are dominated by seniors, and after hugely successful seasons most of the exceptional ones tend to graduate.

Not so with H-LP. After posting a 12-1 record last year, culminating in an Iowa state 8-player championship appearance at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the Wolves remain laden with outstanding talent.

Hoping to pick up where they left off, the 2017 Wolves begin the regular season on Friday with a 7 p.m. game at Buffalo Center against North Iowa. Other northwest Iowa teams also start on Friday. Central Lyon-George-Little Rock hosts West Lyon in the renewal of a storied rivalry. And in another game involving long-time rivals, Sheldon is at Sibley-Ocheyedan.

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H-LP aims high Veteran H-LP head coach Lane Gunderson returns six experienced seniors this fall -- enough, he hopes, to lead his team to many more victories.

“Our goal is to win every game,” he said this week. “It’s not going to be easy when we have week-in and week-out one of the best districts in 8-player.”

It helps to have running back/linebacker Trevor Gunderson in camp. The coach’s son earned all-state honors last year by rushing for 1,541 yards and adding 559 yards receiving. He’s also an outstanding return man.

Keegan Carpenter, a fullback/linebacker, led Iowa 8-player football in tackles last season. He’s also an outstanding blocker.

Quarterback Bryce Perkins is back after throwing the most touchdown passes in 8-player as a junior. Defensive end/end Brett Sohn is an athletic 210-pounder. Guard/linebacker/defensive end Zach Heikens is a hard-working, athletic, physical presence. And guard/noseguard Braeton Nitzchke moves well for a 6-2, 225-pounder.

“Last year, people didn’t give us much of a chance to make the playoffs. We took some people by surprise,” coach Gunderson said.

The Wolves won’t take anyone by surprise this season, but Gunderson says it’s good to be noticed.

And he insists Harris-Lake Park will continue doing things the Harris-Lake Park way.

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“We try to pride ourselves on being a very good defensive team and a very physical team. And on offense we try to be versatile and balanced,” said the coach.

Generals young but optimistic In high school football, there is strength in numbers. But the Sibley-Ocheyedan Generals don’t have an abundance of soldiers this year.

“We don’t have a ton of depth. We’re quite young,” said head coach Dan Spooner. “If we start hot at the beginning, you never know what can happen.”

At home to begin the season against arch-rival Sheldon, Spooner sees a matchup of teams that are similar in style offensively. Both teams like to use a spread offense. Other than that -- and the fact that both schools wear orange and black -- the similarities end.

“They’re the bigger school, they’ve got more people on their team than we do,” Spooner said.

Leading the Generals into battle this fall are seven key players. Senior Cole Newman, a wide receiver/defensive back, will be counted on to set a tone after reporting to camp this year stronger, faster and more athletic. Other receivers who can help are Colvin Jenness and Thomas Doeden.

Sophomore running backs Bert Ortiz, a “bruiser” according to Spooner who can make yards between the tackles, is complemented by Gage Noyes, who’s more likely to earn his yards with his speed.

Senior quarterback Preston Marco is in his second year as a starter. Spooner already knows Marco can throw the ball. He’s hoping to help him become more confident as a runner.

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On the line, senior center Ryan Golobiecki is key. Sibley-Ocheyedan has just two returning starters in the trenches.

Spooner hopes the Generals can be versatile on offense. “We’re going to be in the spread. But we’ll run the ball when we need to run, we’ll throw the ball when we need to throw,” he said.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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