LHS going for 7th straight section title game

LUVERNE -- The goals and expectations remain the same for a Luverne Cardinals' team that has turned into a recent powerhouse in both the Southwest Conference and Section 3AA high school football races from year to year.

LHS's returning seniors
chris murphy/daily globe Returning seniors for LHS include (front row, from left) Darrion Jones, Reed Skattum, Zack Gillette, Ethan Johnson, Brett Heronimus, Skylar Wenninger (middle row, from left), Thomas Graff, Eli Dooyema, Manny Olson, Cole Desplinter, Wyatt Aubert, Jonny Solma (back row, from left), Connor Kunkel, Nathan Kannas, Matt Overgaard, Brenton Richters, Alex Weis and Matt Arends.

LUVERNE -- The goals and expectations remain the same for a Luverne Cardinals' team that has turned into a recent powerhouse in both the Southwest Conference and Section 3AA high school football races from year to year.

Luverne was 7-4 last season and played in the section championship game for the sixth straight time, losing to Blue Earth Area and snapping a five-year run as a participant in the Class AA state tournament.

The Cardinals, who finished as the Class AA runners-up in 2006, 2007 and 2008, have also been a fixture at the top of the conference and have been in the hunt for a league title for the last several seasons.

But, in order for Luverne to repeat that type of success in 2012, it will have to do so without Daily Globe All-Area performers such as Ryder Reed (co-Defensive Lineman of the Year in the SWC), Hayden Bauman (993 yards rushing and eight touchdowns) and Richard Gonzalez (701 yards rushing and eight touchdowns), as well as a handful of other key seniors who graduated last spring.

"We lost some good players, just like we do each year," summed up veteran Luverne head coach Todd Oye. "However, this year's team might be the biggest one we've had recently in terms of overall numbers. We have a total of 18 seniors on our 50-man roster (grades 10-12), which is nice to see and a good indication of the interest in football for our program."


One of those seniors is quarterback Brett Heronimus (6-1, 175), who returns for his third season as the Cardinals' offensive catalyst. A dual threat who ran for 431 yards and five touchdowns in addition to throwing for 525 yards and nine touchdowns, Heronimus was selected to the Daily Globe All-Area team in 2011.

"Brett provides us with veteran leadership under center," Oye said. "He directs our offense and is important in helping us strive to be balanced. We like to run and pass the ball equally when we can, so Brett's experience and knowledge of the game is crucial."

Senior Skyler Wenninger (6-0, 155) also took some snaps at quarterback last year and offers versatility to Luverne's offense, as he's capable of lining up at a variety of spots in different formations.

Seniors Alex Weis (6-2, 230) and Matt Overgaard (6-3, 195) return with experience at tight end for the Cardinals, while seniors Jonny Solma (5-6, 145) and Matt Arends (6-2, 160) are among the players penciled in as wide receivers.

Running back is the position up in the air for Luverne, as Oye mentioned that up to six players are currently competing for carries. Senior Wyatt Aubert (5-8, 195) is one of the guys looking to help fill the void left by Bauman and Gonzalez, as he saw some time at fullback in 2011.

Up front along the offensive line, the Cardinals return a trio of starters in junior left tackle Cody Rofshus (6-4, 270), senior left guard Nathan Kannas (6-3, 200) and senior right tackle Brenton Richters (6-2, 245).

Seniors Ethan Johnson (6-0, 185) and Reed Skattum (5-10, 180) are competing for the starting center job, while senior Thomas Graff (6-0, 190) and junior Ryan Gonzalez (6-0, 235) are vying for the nod at right guard for the Cardinals.

"We have quite a bit coming back on the offensive line," Oye said. "We have good size and mobility, which will be beneficial as we look to move the ball and sustain drives."


Defensively, the Cardinals will lean on Graff, Kannas and junior Josh Slieter (6-2, 180) on the outside as ends. Rofshus, Richters and Weis will join those three in the trenches as tackles.

Aubert, Skattum and junior Brent Thompson (6-0, 185) are challenging for time at inside linebacker, while Heronimus returns as a starter at outside linebacker. Senior Zack Gillette (5-10, 155) and junior Kendall Meyer (5-11, 170) will fill in as the other outside linebacker.

"We expect our linebackers to lead the defense," Oye said. "We want to see those guys improve daily and be able to make plays consistently from sideline to sideline."

Arends and Wenninger are back as the starting cornerbacks for the Cardinals, while Solma is slated to take over as the safety.

"We have some good pieces to build around and will have to put everything together as the season progresses," Oye said. "We should have good depth at every position, which will help us during the weekly grind of the Southwest Conference schedule."

Luverne hosted Harrisburg, S.D., in its season-opener last night and begins conference action Friday by traveling to play Redwood Valley in Redwood Falls.

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