Payton Weehler, Mount Ayr

Pictured: Payton Weehler, Mount Ayr

(Mount Ayr) -- Mount Ayr football is eager to open the season and ready for the challenge that awaits them Friday night when they face Albia. 

The 2020 season marks a changing of the guards of sorts for the Mount Ayr program, which is now under the sole leadership of head coach Derek Lambert, after longtime co-coach, Delwyn Showalter retired last season. 

"We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play," Lambert said. "It's been a great preseason for us."

The Raiders were 7-3 last season and return some pieces from last year's team, but also lost 10 seniors. However, Lambert has liked the leadership he's seen early this season

"We weren't quite sure how our younger guys were going to step up," he said. "But they've done a tremendous job of leading us through this preseason. Everybody is just excited about getting the chance to play."

Senior Peyton Weehler dazzled at quarterback last season throwing for 1,511 yards and 15 touchdowns while also adding five touchdowns on the ground.

"He's a young man that is extremely special," Lambert said. 

Lambert intends to use Weehler in multiple ways this season. 

"We've moved him around a little bit this preseason," he said. "He's played a little running back, some quarterback, fullback. He's a guy that needs to have the ball in his hands. He's going to be our main cog offensively."

When Weehler isn't under center for the Raiders, sophomore Jaixen Frost will likely take the snaps. 

The Raiders lost their top-four receivers last season, so those voids will need to be filled, but Lambert expects Dawson Swank, Austin Cole, Adler Shay and Trae Ehlen to step in. 

"Those are the guys we are looking for to make big plays for us,"

The offensive line will be powered by Rhett Larsen and Seth Shelman.

Defensively, Ehlen, Swank and Bryce Shaha will lead the Raiders' secondary while Weehler, Larsen, Shay, Cole, Shelman, Cody Larsen and Erik Trujillo will be staples in the Raiders' front seven. 

Mount Ayr opens the season Friday night against Albia. The Blue Demons were 2-7 in 2019, but return their quarterback as well as some size upfront with four players on their roster listed at 235 or bigger.

"They're big, extremely big," Lambert said. "I remember playing them in 2014 when we were Class A, that was true then and it's true now. I don't think their record last year is indicative of how good they really are."

Lambert feels it will be important for his team to counter Albia's physicality with a statement early. 

"It's going to be key for us to get on the board quickly," he said. "If we get down, we're going to struggle because of their size. Our passing game is going to be key. We're going to have to throw the ball and be successful through the air. I think we've got our work cut out for us, but we are excited to get out there and ready to play."

Bret Ruggles will be in Mount Ayr providing updates for the Red Oak Chrysler Connection, which can be heard Friday night at around 7:15. KMA Sports' Friday night football coverage begins at 6:20 with the Barrett Auto Center High School Football Preview Show. The complete interview with Coach Lambert can be heard below. 

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