Boots & Badges
Letterwerks Sign City
"Where Fillmore County News Comes First"
Online Edition
Sunday, December 4th, 2016
Volume ∞ Issue ∞

2012 Football Preview

Fri, Aug 31st, 2012
Posted in All Sports

Graduation can be hard on high school football teams, just ask Fillmore Central, Kingsland, and Mabel-Canton. But so goes the prep football process. Five of the six county teams will have new starting quarterbacks in 2012. Four will have new starting running backs. Uncertainty will reign supreme in those towns, at least for a few weeks. One town, however, is exempt from all that.

The Chatfield Gophers, from a skill-position perspective, won’t look a whole lot different than they did in 2011 (when they finished 6-4, downed by Zumbrota-Mazeppa in the second round of the play-offs). Nate Skare (6’2” 180-pound junior) returns at quarterback. Jake Neis (5’9” 160-pound junior), who authored a pair of 250-yard rushing games in 2011, and Justin Viss (6’2” 210-pound senior), who also spearheaded the Gopher defense from his middle linebacker spot, also return. They form a splendid inside-outside running back tandem. Throw in juniors Alex Haffner and Jayme LaPlante (a particularly intriguing lineman-to-tight end conversion who did double duty during track season, threw discus and ran sprints); the Gophers have some key pieces to the puzzle. Jeff Johnson’s boys aren’t without their flaws and obstacles though. They are very sophomore (20) and junior heavy (10), with just five seniors. They also play in the same conference/section as Caledonia, the school that?s won 4 of 5 Class AA state football titles. It might take another year for all the pieces to really come together.

In a word, Fillmore Central head coach Chris Mensink called his team “inexperienced.” Last year’s Falcons were senior-laden (all 18 of them) and successful because of it (began 6-0, earned a state ranking). A game against eventual AA state champ Caledonia and an injury (to tailback Tyler Eickhoff) later; things ended less positively than they began (7-3, downed by Southland in the second round of the play-offs).

There aren’t too many holdover on-field contributors from that fine squad. Seniors Dan Gatzke (6’2” 195), Jake Ristau (5’9” 180), Andy Coyle (5’10” 180), and Marcus Tucker (5’7” 145) are familiar names. All played their parts in 2011’s defensive effort. On the offensive side of things, Mensink has the task of trying to replace 36 graduated TD’s (of the 40 the Falcons scored as a team). Tucker’s 265 all-purpose yards and 3 TD’s is the best returning performer. A replacement for Andy Todd at quarterback is also needed. It’s likely junior McKinnen Stone (the only returning player to complete a pass last season, literally, he was 1-4), or senior Brandon Breitsprecher.

The Falcons will have a bit of added inspiration in 2012 though. Suiting up with them will be Mitch Ristau. The senior returns to the football field nearly four years after losing his lower leg in a farm accident. He’ll compete while wearing a prosthetic.

In Rushford, the Trojans will look to improve upon a rough 2011 campaign (2-7, downed by Fillmore Central in the 1st round of the play-offs). It was running back by committee: in nine games the Trojans had six different players lead the team in rushing. Five, Zach Boehmke (5’9” 170 Sr.), Steve Adcock (5’9” 170 Sr.), Alex Vix (5’9” 155 So.), Tyler McLellan (6’0” 170 Jr), and Casey McLellan (5’8” 170 Sr), return. None rushed for over 200 yards on the season though.

Defense could be a strength this year, as the Trojans return their top seven tacklers from 2011. They have some experience on their side. After three days of practice, head coach Davin Thompson was pleased with the leadership his seniors had thus far showed. He spoke positively of the athleticism of his sophomore class. He was coy with any more particulars (including his starting QB). One thing is for certain though; Rushford-Peterson is a well-known school for both its (boys) basketball and football. The Trojans are three-plus years removed from 2008’s Section 1A football championship. Coach Thompson is certainly looking to return his alma mater to that level of preeminence.

In Spring Valley, the Knights went 3 and 6 last season. They lost to Goodhue in the first round of the play-offs 48-22. Like Fillmore Central, they graduated more than their fair share of seniors (15), particularly those at the “skill” positions (QB Tanner Lange, RB’s Sam Eberle, Jerad Miner, and Jesse Crowson, TE Devon Pokorney). Head Coach John Fenske won’t have much for returning key contributors. Senior Marshall Oeltjen (6’0” 210) is one of the few players to see extensive action last season (to see the end zone). Jacob Rindels (5’8” 150 sophomore), Lenny Moore (5’9” 150 junior), and Jordan Meskill (5’9” 160 junior) are three other guys who’ll likely have the ball placed in their hands. Rindels is the only quarterback listed on the Minnesota State High School League Kingsland football page. With just 27 kids out, 9-12, the Knights aren’t heavy on numbers by any regard. They have only six seniors and five juniors. In football, where numbers and age matter, not having much for either might make for a long season for Knight fans. At the very least, 2012 will be a building/learning process for the younger kids.

In 9-man action, Lanesboro finished last season 6-4, ending on a very ugly note (downed 62-6 by Section 1 9-man champ Spring Grove). Head coach James Semmen has three returning starters on each side of the ball, seven returning seniors, and 15 returning letter-winners. Junior tailback Niko Anderson is the prized jewel in Burro-land. The 5’9” 180-pounder tallied almost 1,400 total yards (1,281 rushing) last season and 21 total TD’s. He enters his third year of varsity competition, having played on the biggest of all stages (the Prep Bowl) as a freshman. Junior Garret Boggs (5’10” 155) is set to take over at the quarterbacking spot, full time. He called signals for Lanesboro’s first two games in 2011. Gabe Decker (5’7” 140) and Daulton Gartner (6’0” 160) will also be factors offensively. Gartner and Anderson were the Burros top two tacklers in 2011.

Lanesboro isn’t as big, size-wise, as they’ve been in recent years. Only two players off last year’s roster tip the scales above 200 pounds. They aren’t, as their coach said, completely “battle-tested.” Nonetheless, Anderson is a difference-maker, a threat to-score anytime he touches the ball. That alone will most certainly give orange and black fans something to cheer about.

The Mabel-Canton Cougars (6-4 last season, downed by Grand Meadow in the second round of the play-offs) will begin the year in the tough position. They have just one returning senior (OL Logan Henry) off last year’s squad. Gone are 2011 leaders Jacoby Bigalk, Gabe Lind, Jesse Amdahl, Adam Fravel, and Steve Smith. The longest tenured head football coach in the county, Karl Urbaniak, will thus have to rely on juniors and underclassmen. A trio of players most likely to make a splash, a trio with the most experience, is Noah Manning (257 rushing yards, 116 receiving yards and 2 TD’s in 2011), Hunter Johnson (179 rushing yards and 3 TD’s in 2011), and Justin Ward (6 receptions, 91 yards in 2011). All are juniors. The only returning player to have thrown a pass (literally, he was 1-1 in 2011) is Collin O’Bieglo, another junior, who looks to be the Cougar starting signal caller in 2012. With 8 juniors and 7 freshmen, on a 20 man-team, M-C is certainly young and short-handed. In fact, there has been talk about M-C sharing football sometime in the future, but not this year. Wily Coach Urbaniak will have to call on all his years of coaching and make the best of the numbers he’s got.

Volleyball Openers

Falcons Ace Burros

A host of area volleyball faces descended upon Lanesboro for the 2012 volleyball opener. Rushford-Peterson players, Mabel-Canton players, R-P’s coach, Houston’s coach, local sports stat guru Bill Bentson, KFIL/KVGO radio play-by-play-man Devon Krueger, a KTTC camera-man (to name a few), and, of course, the host Burros and visiting Fillmore Central Falcons. All watching were treated to a one-sided affair. The Falcons, coming off a successful 24-7 2011 campaign, returning nearly everyone, were decisive in their work. Head coach Denise Case didn’t show the entire Fillmore Central volleyball hand, but the Falcons laid out a bunch of aces nonetheless. FC served up 19 points the easy way. Sophomore setter Morgan Malley chalked up nine (18-19 serving, 13 assists), junior Taylor Case five (17-18 serving), and senior Chelsea Rislove four. Those quick points made the contest an struggle-less victory for the Falcons, 25-6, 25-10, and 25-11. Victoria Peterson led everyone with 6 kills. Madison Ming led the Burros with four.

Gophers Get Early Work

There is nothing like game action to hone the sports senses. Practice just cannot do for a team what real competition can. Gopher volleyball coach Troy Swancutt is probably happy about his team’s 2012 opener versus Medford. His girls got work and they got a victory. The Gophers prevailed 3-1, but it took 27-25 and 26-24 efforts in sets one and three to seal 2/3 of the verdict. Medford took set #2 (25-22). Chatfield won going away in the final game 25-12. Fatigue, brought on by warm temps, might have played a part. The Gophers used all 12 girls on their roster. The Tigers only used eight. Senior MaKenzie Miller was the Gopher’s leader in kills (7) and blocks (4), interesting given she wasn’t out for volleyball in 2011. Six other Gophers notched three or more kills. Gabrielle Salisbury (18) and Kileigh Dudek (12) shared the assists. Salisbury had four of the Goph’s 14 aces. But Medford freshman Madison Strodtman was the night’s standout player. The 5’9” freshmen led everyone with 12 kills and 6 ace blocks (plus 5 assists). Tiger senior Nicole Morgan side-kicked her with 6 kills, 22 assists, and 5 aces.

No Comments Yet. Be the first to comment!

Your comment submission is also an acknowledgement that this information may be reprinted in other formats such as the newspaper.

Foods Weekly Ads
Studio A Photography