(KMAland) -- Class 1A District 9 belonged to Treynor last year. With all that they have returning, you’d have to think they’re the odds-on favorite, right? Well, there might be some teams that disagree with that premise. Let’s look…
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MARTIN BLOG FALL PREVIEW NO. 5 -- CLASS 1A DISTRICT 9
Cherokee, Washington Braves — 2018 Record: 2-7 overall, 1-4 district
Coach: Tony Gunter
OVERVIEW: Cherokee lost 10 seniors from a team that won just two games. However, last year’s juniors and this year’s seniors - around 12 strong - were some of the leading producers on both offense and defense. The sophomore class also had some nice pieces.
OFFENSE: They’re going to sling it, baby. Senior Alex Paulsrud threw for 1,934 yard and 16 touchdowns (with 12 picks) last year, and he returns each of his top five targets. Senior Kobe Grell had 10 touchdowns among his 36 grabs for 674 yards while fellow senior Ryan Hurd added 20.3 yards per catch, going for 19 and 385. More seniors - Trevor Lundquist (24 receptions, 369 yards, 2 TD), Bryce Lussier (22 receptions, 251 yards, 2 TD) and Cole Pitts (18 receptions, 228 yards, 2 TD) are also key receiving threats returning to the fold. Lundquist also accounted for 318 yards rushing, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. So, that could prove to be a nice distraction when Paulsrud’s arm gets tired.
DEFENSE: The defense loses its heat-seeking missile Mason Goebel, who had 113 tackles and 10 for loss last year. However, the next three tacklers are back. That includes Lundquist, who had 60.5 tackles, including 44 solos. Juniors Cael Wood and Brayden Farver were also productive with 34.5 and 29.0 tackles, respectively. Lussier (27.5 tackles, 4 TFL), junior Colton Woltman (27.5 tackles), Paulsrud (25.0 tackles, 2 INT) and junior Carson Fuhrman (25.0 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks) are among a large contingent of supporting standouts on the defensive side.
CONCLUSION: Two big keys - how do they replace Goebel on defense? And how much more efficient can their offense be? With their quarterback and his top five receivers back, I’d have to lean towards the positive on the latter. The former? Well, that’s a tougher question, although they do bring back plenty of guys that saw time last year. Cherokee won two games last season, and I think there’s a fair chance that number improves in 2019.
East Sac County Raiders — 2018 Record: 5-4 overall, 3-2 district
Coach: Eric McCollough
OVERVIEW: Only six seniors are gone from last year’s team, although there are a couple pretty big names and contributors that will have to be replaced. This year’s seniors should be around 13 strong, and that’s always a positive number when you’re talking about small-school football.
OFFENSE: Senior quarterback Griff O’Neill is back to call the signals. He threw for 671 yards, but he will have to improve in the ball security (10 INT). With a year under his belt, I have no doubt that number will be lower this season. Of course, the Raiders are best known for a power running game that led to 1,766 yards from the graduated Garret Bruce. Up next, Quintin Ludwig. The senior had 410 yards and averaged 6.5 yards per carry last season. Senior Derek Aschinger, last year’s leading receiver with 16 grabs for 311 yards and three touchdowns, also rushed for 191 yards. And look for junior Jake Paysen to have some say in the running game, too, after decent production in limited chances last year.
DEFENSE: Run the ball and play defense. That’s been the winning formula for the Raiders in the past. I’m here to say, this could be one of their best defenses in awhile. Seven of the top nine tacklers are back, led by senior Nick Gerdes, who had a team-high 81.5 tackles last season. Fellow seniors Josh Wernimont (52 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 FR), Nathan Thomsen (33.5 tackles), Ludwig (31 tackles, 2 INT), Austin Corbin (28 tackles, 7 sacks), Aschinger (25 tackles, 4 TFL), Reece Potthoff (20.5 tackles) and Kip Corbin (15 tackles) should make for a stingy East Sac defense.
CONCLUSION: Run the ball and play defense. Did I say that already? That’s the formula for some of East Sac’s best teams, and that is going to be the case again this season. Bruce (and big man Brandyn Clair) will be difficult to replace, but their sheer numbers and experience should mean big things for the Raiders.
Missouri Valley Big Reds — 2018 Record: 5-4 overall, 3-2 district
Coach: Rick Barker
OVERVIEW: The quarterback and some key linemen are gone from a 12-person senior class. There are, however, some really solid players returning in what could be around an eight-person group of seniors this year. There was smattering of 11 sophomores - now juniors - last season, too.
OFFENSE: Senior Nick Haynes is the story, and you knew that already. He rushed for 1,666 yards, averaging 6.9 yards per carry and scoring 12 touchdowns a year ago. He was simply unstoppable, but you have to consider some terrific linemen that helped open some of his holes are gone. It might not be as easy sledding this year. Or it might. We’ll find out soon enough.
DEFENSE: The defense lost three of its top four tacklers and four of its top six. Haynes ranked second in tackles (47 total) and had five TFLs and four solo sacks a year ago. Junior Cole Lange is primed for a big breakout this year after finishing his sophomore season with 30.5 total takedowns, including 21 solos. Senior Jed Kyle is another standout with 23 tackles and two TFLs as a junior while junior Jace Coenen (22.5 tackles) and seniors Gavin Bartalini and Jon Johnson are back after 12.5 and 12.0 tackles, respectively.
CONCLUSION: The Missouri Valley success or non-success is likely to come down to the line play. That’s probably the case for a lot of teams, but I think it’s even more important for the Big Reds. Arron Olson, Steven Murray and Isaiah Martinez are gone. Who fills in? I’m a little interested in this dude Connor Murray, who was listed at 6-foot-6 and 232 pounds as a freshman last year. Tell me more, tell me more.
MVAOCOU Rams — 2018 Record: 1-8 overall, 0-5 district
Coach: Scott Breyfogle
OVERVIEW: MVAOCOU won their first game last season, and then they proceeded to drop their final eight games. Not many of those contests were close, unfortunately, and now they have to work on replacing a 12-person senior class. There are 11ish seniors this year, including many guys up front.
OFFENSE: The quarterback and their leading rusher - one in the same - are gone from last season. They also lost all but five receptions from their receiving corps. Senior Cayden Hendersen is the top threat among the skill guys that are back. He had 383 yards and four touchdowns on the ground last season. I do think, with what appears to be an experienced OL, MVAOCOU could have a little more running room (or time to pass) this year.
DEFENSE: Their top three tacklers were seniors. So were two of the next three after that. The top returning defender is senior Logan Blume, who had 31.5 total tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. Fellow senior Kolby Nutt had 20.0 tackles while Hendersen has a team-high returning 4.5 tackles for loss and three solo sacks. Other seniors Landon Mohr (15.5 tackles) and Hunter Soll (15 tackles, 3 TFL) and junior Kalvin Prell (12 tackles) are other returning contributors from last year.
CONCLUSION: In theory, if you improve on the lines you are probably going to improve overall. With hosses like Soll (6-foot-0, 288 pounds), Mohr (6-foot-0, 250 pounds), Jacob Welte (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) and Ben Kovarna (6-foot-5, 260 pounds) back in the mix and with last year’s experience under their belt, I could easily theorize the Rams will be much, much improved.
Treynor Cardinals — 2018 Record: 8-2 overall, 5-0 district
Coach: Jeff Casey
OVERVIEW: As Jeff Casey’s time at Treynor continues, his senior classes are getting bigger and bigger. Last year, it was up to seven. This year, it’s going to be around 18, and following a district title and state playoff appearance, what more could you really ask for?
OFFENSE: They lost their 1,000-yard rusher in Kyle Christensen, but Jake Fisher is back for his senior season and will be starting for a third straight year. He threw for 880 years, rushed for 776 and accounted for 23 total touchdowns. Fellow senior Will Halverson is a dual-threat on the ground (347 yards) and through the air (255 yards) while Jack Tiarks (252 rushing, 172 receiving), Luke Mieska (129 rushing, 164 receiving) and Jack Stogdill (171 receiving) are other senior threats that will make this Treynor offense very difficult to defend, especially with some real DOGS up front.
DEFENSE: Senior Chase Reber led last year’s team with 73 total tackles, eight solo tackles for loss and five solo sacks. The ballhawk is back. Mieska (48.5 tackles), Tiarks (27 tackles, 2 INT), Kristian Martens (25.5 tackles) and Craig Chapman (24.5 tackles) are some others that ran around and made some plays. And then you throw in some big guys up front - senior Brock Fox (20.5 tackles, 3 TFL) and junior Blake Sadr (20.5 tackles, 4 TFL, 3.5 sacks) - that can only be better with an offseason spent in the weight room. Halverson (2 INT), Noah McCombs (3 INT) and Ben Boese also had 10 or more tackles last season.
CONCLUSION: Coach Casey returns a whole lot of playmakers on both sides of the ball, as well as many of the linemen that can make it work up front. They won the district last year with an undefeated mark, but they had narrow escapes in wins over East Sac County and Underwood - teams I expect will also be improved. It should be a dogfight (again).
Underwood Eagles — 2018 Record: 5-4 overall, 3-2 district
Coach: Nate Mechaelsen
OVERVIEW: Underwood is a self-sufficient program that continues to churn out solid senior classes one after another thanks to the culture built by Coach Mechaelsen and staff. They had 15 seniors last year and should have about 10 this year. The juniors and sophomores should also be in double digits. This is a healthy program, friends.
OFFENSE: One of the most dangerous passers in the area is back. Senior Nick Ravlin tossed for 2,193 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for another 370 and five. He will have to find some new help. His top rusher and receiver are gone, but it’s not likely it will take long to find that help. Junior Brayden Wollan (130 rushing yards) is more than ready to step in, and fellow junior Blake Hall (46 receptions, 666 yards, 7 TD) already had his breakout. Sophomore Collin Brandt had a really good year, too, with 19 grabs for 237 yards. Look for seniors Landon Nelson and Zach Soar and sophomore Easton Eledge to be among the dudes to keep these guys clean.
DEFENSE: The top tackler is gone, but Wollan - 48 solos, 55.5 total last season - is back to fill that stead. Senior Jonathan Casson had a really nice season with 44 tackles and six tackles for loss last season. Ravlin (37 tackles, 2 INT), Hall (36.5 tackles, 4.5 TFL) and sophomore Carter Davis (22 tackles) are other standouts above 20 takedowns last year. Eledge, fellow sophomore Scott Pearson and junior Chris Gardner are other underclassmen that dipped their toes in last year. Now, they’re primed and ready to jump all the way in.
CONCLUSION: I don’t think anybody should be surprised if the Eagles go on and win the district. They were seven points away from doing it last year. A tweak here, some improvement there and Coach Mechaelsen’s team could turn the trick this season. But it won’t be easy. It never is.
Don’t make me pick one. Last year’s district champion returns a ton of outstanding players, but so do the two teams that gave them their toughest games (East Sac and Underwood). Those, in my opinion, are the three to watch in what should be a really competitive district. I can’t believe you’re making me wait until week five to begin to see what happens.
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