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Prep football preview: E/E, JCC re-stock, hope to continue their winning ways

All across the landscape, from sea to shining sea, football teams in the modern age are learning that nothing excites fans more than aerial assaults.

All across the landscape, from sea to shining sea, football teams in the modern age are learning that nothing excites fans more than aerial assaults.

But in southwest Minnesota, some successful coaches still believe in three yards and a cloud of dust. Even new coaches.

Randy Schettler, an assistant coach under Randy Strand for 14 years at Adrian High School, is stepping into the main job this fall with the retirement of his leader. Now the leader himself, Schettler sees no reason to make wholesale changes to Strand’s winning philosophy that it’s always better to run.

“It’s written on the wall: Run, run, pass, punt, and stay away from the last two,” Schettler said this week.

In Edgerton and Ellsworth, nobody needs to point to a changing room wall to reiterate the mantra. For years, coach Andrew Fleischman has used physical line play and a stable of talented runners to achieve success. Last season, the Flying Dutchmen took a 10-1 record into the state 9-Man tournament by putting four different rushers over 700 yards.

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In 2017, Fleischman believes the Dutch may consider passing the football a little more … but just a little, mind you, just to keep defenses honest.

“The way we like to be balanced is in terms of all the different ball carriers, anyone who can get the ball at any time,” Fleischman said.

Across Minnesota, high school teams open the regular season with games on Thursday and Friday. Edgerton/Ellsworth should have a good test right off the bat, hosting Red Rock Central -- a team that posted a 6-1 record in the Southwest West last year -- Thursday night at 7 p.m.

Used to winning, the Flying Dutchmen hope to continue the tradition this fall by maintaining their reputation for toughness. By perfecting the veer, Fleischman has been able to resort to the pass far less often than most 9-Man teams do.

“We’re developing into a pretty physical team, and that’s what we want for us,” said the coach about his 2017 unit in preseason. “We have to move people. We have to control the line of scrimmage.”

Three key players return from last year’s state tournament team. Trey Gilbertson, a 6-5, 215-pound senior offensive and defensive end, is the reigning Lineman of the Year in the 9-South All-District West. Two more all-district players, Jaiden Bloemendaal (RB/OLB) and Landon Buckridge (QB/S) also return. Bloemendaal, a 5-8, 170-pound explosive back, rushed for more than 1,000 yards last year and Buckridge, a 5-8, 160-pound quarterback, ran for nearly 1,000 yards.

With speed at the skill positions and experience returning to the line, the Dutchmen should pose a significant threat again this fall.

In 2016, E/E (7-1 in league play) led its sub-district in total offense. Hills-Beaver Creek (6-2) led in points scored. Head coach Rex Metzger hopes his Patriots can compete again with the best teams on its schedule.

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“I think we’re going to be very competitive,” he said. “I like the makeup of our team. We’ve got more size than we’ve had in the past.”

The Pats also have senior 170-pound running back Trenton Bass, who Metzger describes as “just a real athletic kid. And he’s been on the field for us the last couple of years.”

Several others can tote the football, too, says the coach, and there’s good size in front led by junior 6-0, 260-pounder Garrett Raymon, who has started since his freshman season.

Much to learn at JCC In the South Central White Conference, where Jackson County Central rolled to a 7-0 record last year en route to a state Class AAA berth, there will be a lot of players to replace.

There are eight seniors on the team, and four returning starters.

“We’ve got a lot of shoes to fill,” admitted veteran head coach Tom Schuller. “Our No. 1 thing is trying to get an offensive line together. Most of our experience is on the defensive side of the ball.”

Senior Jacob Tvinnereim (RB/LB) will be a big part of the offense when he’s healthy, but he may miss a game or two with a sprained knee. Another senior, Dylan Svoboda (G/T) is 6-4 and 270 pounds, has excellent feet, and is the only returnee from the offensive line. A third senior, Ethan Lindley (WR/LB) is a three-year starter who Schuller says rarely makes a mistake on the field. Schuller says his dependable junior, linebacker Zach Neal, is a “fire hydrant.”

A sophomore who has already turned heads for his abilities on the basketball court, Rudy Voss, will run the Huskies’ veer offense after the graduation of one of the area’s top quarterbacks, Easton Bahr.

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Despite the many shoes to fill, JCC plans for a very competitive season once again.

“We’ve got a lot of new kids. But we have high expectations for them. We have a lot of young kids, so it might take a few weeks for us to get there,” said Schuller.

That the players still have much to learn is evident when Schuller remarks, “We don’t even know what we don’t know right now. Experience is the only way to find out a lot of those things.”

Don’t overlook the Rebs One of the most intriguing high school teams in southwest Minnesota is based in Slayton. The Murray County Central Rebels used a late surge to vault themselves into the state Class A tournament with an 8-3 record. Zach Aanenson (Sr., RB/DE) returns after running for more than 1,000 yards last year and the all-sub district performer will no doubt spearhead the effort in 2017.

“He is our No. 1 leader. He’s our heartbeat right now,” said coach Patrick Freeman of the hard-working Aanenson.

Fans should also keep an eye out for junior RB/LB Ethan Swanson, a state meet sprinter in the spring who not only can win with his speed but also with his muscle. Another junior, Justin Benda (RB/CB) is a “lockdown” corner who will be a pass-catching threat on offense.

The Rebels are not big on the offensive line, but they do have three-year starter Brandon Winter at left tackle and second-year starter Teagan Peschges at guard.

There’s a lot of MCC talent in the junior class, and after last year, nobody will sell the Rebels short in 2017.

“It’s amazing what can happen when kids can believe,” said the coach.

Schettler, the new boss in Adrian, has just 31 players in camp. Thirteen letter winners graduated last year’s winning squad, but some key players remain.

Senior quarterback Ryan Wieneke is a two-year starter who throws well and reads defenses well. Senior lineman Skylar Polzine (6-5, 280) is a good leader at center. Senior running back Nick Harder is primed to pick up where the graduated Frank Serrao left off. A straight, powerful runner, he gained about 800 yards last season.

Schettler believes he’s got a bunch of self-starters on the team.

“I don’t do a lot of hollering. I expect a lot of them, and I expect them to expect a lot of each other,” he said.

In the South Central White Conference, JCC may have its hands full with a pair of traditional favorites, Pipestone Area and Luverne. JCC beat both teams by a total of eight points last season, and both teams figure to be improved from their 3-4 (PA) and 4-3 (Luverne) conference records.

Outside of JCC, all the conference champions in 2016 hailed from outside the immediate area. Cleveland defends the 9-South West. Minneota won the Southwest East over Dawson-Boyd and Lakeview. Wabasso captured the Southwest West ahead of Red Rock Central and Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s. And Marshall won the South Central Red ahead of Waseca, Fairmont and Belle Plaine.

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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