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Football players of the year

Fri, Nov 23rd, 2012
Posted in All Sports

By Paul Trende

Football in Fillmore County in 2012 wasn’t quite as good as volleyball. Just three of the six teams (versus four) came out with winning records. The Chatfield Gophers essentially fulfilled the promise they showed ever since the end of last season. They were the county’s headliner. Finishing with a record of 9-2, the Gophs were 9-0 versus all teams not nicknamed Warriors. Their 6-0 loss to Caledonia was one of the Warriors few nail-biters enroot to another Class AA state championship game.

The Rushford-Peterson Trojans had the most impressive turn-around by any team, going from 2-7 to a highly competitive 6-4. They also played Caledonia (lost 15-7), as well as Class A state finalist Faribault B.A. (lost 14-7), tough. The Lanesboro Burros also finished above .500 (6-4), with Mabel-Canton (3-5), Fillmore Central (2-7), and Kingsland (1-8) having their struggles. There wasn’t a shortage of good players on those teams. Here are, the 2012 Fillmore County Sports Football Players of the Year.

In Lanesboro, one only need to say one name; Niko. Announcers called it a lot in Burro games. Niko Anderson (5’9” 185-pound junior RB/DE) was the Burros one-man offensive gang. The young man with an already extensive two-year varsity career added a splendid year #3 in 2012. He added to his 9-man gridiron reputation. Lanesboro scored 52 TDs on the season. Anderson had 33 of them. He was the horse the Burro ground-game was latched to, racking up 1,914 yards on 240 carries (8.0 per), including 30 rushing TDs. He added TDs each via reception, interception return, and kickoff return. The shifty and durable Anderson amassed over 30 carries in a game four times, amassed 200 or more yards rushing six times, and scored four or more (total) TDs in a game five times. Included was a 300-plus yard rushing game versus Lyle/Pacelli and a 7-total-TD effort versus LeRoy-Ostrander in an opening round play-off game. Defensively, he finished 4th on the team in tackles, recorded three sacks (a safety), three interceptions, while also doing a lot of work on kick-off returns, and doing almost all of the punting. He was, as made famous by The Matrix movies, Mr. Anderson, or the Burros ‘chosen one.’

For the Chatfield Gophers, Jake Neis (5’10” 170-pound junior TB/CB Chatfield) wasn’t necessarily the ‘chosen one.’ He was just the one who seemingly got Chatfield the big play when they needed it (or otherwise). Ankle-breaking Jake was the quick, agile, and speedy straw that stirred the Chatfield Gopher multi-pronged wishbone ground-and-pound drink. Coming off a breakout sophomore year that twice saw Neis go for 250-yards-plus, 2012 saw Jake be the definition of consistent (excluding games against Caledonia). Jake rushed for over 100 yards in six of 11 games while going over 100 total yards (rushing and receiving) in two more (8 of 11).

All told, Neis only finished with less than 75 yards of offense in a game once. He scored TDs in every game his team scored TDs (the nine not against Caledonia). He finished with just shy of 1,400 yards total offense (1,229 rushing, which led the 3-Rivers), 15 total offensive TDs, plus a 16th TD on one of his three interceptions. He was the best offensive player in the 3-Rivers South. His efforts were pivotal in putting the Chatfield Gophers in the Class AA top 10 mid-season, where they stayed until the end. A junior, 3-Rivers foes will get another season of Mr. Neis being not so nice to deal with. They’ll get another season of the Gophers being ranked in state.

In Mabel, the M-C football program endured a transition year. They lost a lot off a 6-4 2011 squad, and thus had a lot of spots to fill with few bodies (20 players out 9 thru 12, with only one senior). Junior Hunter Johnson (6’0” 170-pound RB/LB) was one player who filled one of those roles, quite effectively. Manning the fullback position (as opposed to teammate Noah Manning who manned the tailback spot) in M-C’s Wing-T offense, Johnson ran a lot of traps and dives, and ran a lot into the clear. Through eight regular season games, Johnson amassed just short of 1,400 yards with 20 TD’s. He finished the year with over 1,500 yards and 20-plus TD’s (all on the ground). Johnson only once was denied of the century mark rushing (versus stout state-ranked Spring Grove). On six occasions he eclipsed 150 yards in a game including a career 275-yard effort versus LeRoy-Ostrander. Johnson was only once held out of the end zone too, while scoring four times in a game three times. Weeks 3-6, he was at his best, notching 15 TD’s and averaging over 200 yards per game. Heading into next year, there won’t a transition for M-C football. The Cougar Wing-T running game will have Johnson’s talents to rely on.

On Fillmore Central’s 2011 football team, Dan Gatzke was a 6’3” 164-pound valuable starting junior linebacker on a very good senior dominant team. On offense, he barely played. In 2012, Gatzke (6’2’ 194-pound senior LB/FB) transitioned into the Falcons most valuable weapon, the one guy FC could rely on to make big plays. FC won just a pair of games, but that certainly couldn’t be put on Gatzke. The shimmying, rumbling running back began the season by sharing carries (lead blocking) out of the backfield. By mid-season, there wasn’t a whole lot of sharing/lead blocking going on. Gatzke carried the load, racking over 100 yards total offense each in week’s 5-8 (games versus Chatfield, Kingsland, R-P, and Southland) with 8 total TD’s, all while opposing teams knew he was the one FC guy to stop. Included in that was a 183-yard 4 TD performance versus Kingsland. On the season, Dan finished just shy of 1,000 total yards (769 rushing, 158 receiving, both of which led the Falcons) with 10 (7 rushing, 3 receiving) of FC’s 15 total TD’s. He was also the team’s third leading tackler on defense. FC got beat more often than they wanted, but Gatzke ‘got him some’ more than opponents would’ve liked.

It might be scary in a year or two, when R-P’s Alex Vix (5’9” 155-pound sophomore WR/RB/CB) and Cole Kingsley (5’10” 150-pound sophomore WR/RB/S) become the focus of of R-P’s offense. In 2012, they weren’t necessarily, but they still left their mark big time. Moved around munificently, each from RB to WR, the duo didn’t just make big plays and score TDs for the Trojans, it just seemed that way. Vix finished the year with 10 TDs, the Trojan leader in that category. He was mostly a WR (22 receptions, 389 yards, 6 TDs), but also came out of the backfield (24 carries, 156, 3 TDs). His 10th score came via a kick-off return.

Kingsley was similarly everywhere, even more so than Vix. The super-soph led R-P with 1,135 all-purpose yards, getting some through the air (23 receptions, 426 yards, 4 TD’s), some on kick-off return (334 yards), some on punt return (311 yards, TD), and a smidgen out of the backfield (13 carries, 64 yards, TD). Not included in that was Kingsley most impressive stat. In eleven games the speedy ball-hawking safety sniped 9 opposing quarterback throws, bringing two back for TD’s. He was also the Trojans third leading tackler. All told, the (likely) 15-year-old duo accounted for 17 R-P scores. It’ll be scary, when both are 17 (seniors), to see how many times they find the end zone (to see where they lead R-P).

R-P wasn’t just a sophomore show. Zach Boehmke (5’10” 175-pound senior RB/LB) was one of the Trojan’s primary ball carriers. Amidst a ‘tailback-by-committee’ attack, Boehmke was pretty much ‘the chairman’. He led the green and gold with 564 rushing yards and 5 TDs (on 90 carries for an impressive 6.3 per average). He added a little over 100 receiving yards while also completing a halfback pass for a TD versus Fillmore Central in the regular season. His best rushing game came against state ranked Chatfield (15 carries, 145 yards, TD). Like teammate Kingsley, Boehmke’s most flashy statistic related to interceptions. Zach had three picks, and all three were returned for TD’s, one against Onalaska-Luther, one against Kingsland, and one against Southland (for the game’s deciding score). Zach was also R-P’s second leading tackler.

•Justin Viss (6’2” 215-pound senior, Chatfield): the bruising senior’s final high school year was unfortunately marred too much by injury. Viss missed time, or wasn’t 100 percent, due to groin and knee injuries. He still was the 3-Rivers South’s most imposing defensive player. He still amassed 438 rushing yards and accounted for 5 rushing TD’s. His best effort was saved for the play-off’s, a 21-carry 150-yard, TD-effort in a big ranked-versus-ranked section semifinal win over Lewiston-Altura.

•Nate Skare (6’2” 195-pound junior, Chatfield): gave the Gophers enough of a passing threat (around 800 yards, 9 TD’s, 7 INT’s), and enough of a running threat from the QB position (almost 200 yards, 5 TD’s), to make Neis, Viss, and the rest of Chatfield’s back-field, Chatfield’s offense, that much better. Special teams play was also of note; kicked 22 PAT’s, 3 field goals while booming the occasional monster punt (averaged 37.5 per kick which led the 3-Rivers).

•Jayme LaPlante (6’3” 210-pound junior LB/TE Chatfield): was the second (Viss) of Chatfield’s imposing linebackers, which, with the rest of the Gopher defense allowed 12 points per game. LaPlante also led the Gophers in receiving with 14 receptions for 283 yards and 4 total TD’s (2 rushing, 2 receiving).

•Marshall Oeltjen (6’2” 210-pound senior RB/LB Kingsland): the under-manned Knights big work-horse, Oeltjen led Kingsland in carries (167), rushing yards (617), and rushing TD’s (6) while also spearheading the Knight defense with 8 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, 3 fumble recoveries, and an interception.

•Isaac Freese (6’3” 200-pound, senior DE/TE Lanesboro): was the Burros defensive one-man gang, leading the team with 138 tackles and registering an eye-opening 15 sacks. Also added a pick-six TD and a receiving TD plus a trio of receiving 2-point conversions.

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