For a third straight season the Coyotes won a playoff game, finishing 7-3, and will return a bundle of returning talent, seven starters on both sides of scrimmage.
"We are looking forward to a good football season even though there will be challenges ahead of us," says fourth-year head coach Matt McGinn. "We will be playing in a new district with a lot of quality teams and we will need to be in peak condition to compete week in and week out. Having some good experience returning will give our younger kids a chance to develop."
The Coyotes will feature one of the most the most explosive backfield combinations in eight-man football, including senior running back Trent Geiser (5-6, 160) and junior quarterback Troy Gilligan (5-8, 140). Geiser went into last season generally regarded as one of the best underclassmen in eight-man, only to have his season cut short by injury; he'll be back and ready to go this season. Gilligan took over the majority of the offensive load, rushing for 1,329 yards and 22 touchdowns and passing for another 1,281 yards and 13 TDs, truly amazing numbers.
Sophomore Keenan Stupka (5-6, 160) stepped in and gained 333 yards on the ground and scored three TDs as a rookie, and he'll be even better this time around. Also returning is junior end Shaun Christen (6-0, 160), who last year caught 13 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior center Kylen Thompsen (5-10, 160) will lead a veteran offensive line that will include senior Justin Wells (5-9, 180) and junior Tyler Chandler (6-0, 200). That has a chance to be one of D-2's better offensive lines in 2014.
Gilligan (67 tackles, 3 INTs, 2 FR), Stupka (39 tackles, 3 INTs) and Geiser will combine to give the Coyotes a dynamite secondary while Chandler, a returning all-district player who had 69 tackles and two fumble recoveries, and Thompsen (95 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 FR) are outstanding linebackers.
Wells (41 tackles, 2 FR) is a returning all-district player and leads a defensive line that will include Christen (27 tackles, 2 INTs).
Don't be surprised to see the Coyotes run the regular season table, win the district and advance in the playoffs. I won't be.
A strong finish to the 2013 season and the return of starters at 11 positions, six on offense, has the Knights thinking big thoughts after last year's 4-5 finish.
"I feel like if we pick up where we left off last season we have the ability to compete for a district title. We played a ton of young kids last year and still finished tied for first in our district, which was a huge step forward for our program," says third-year head coach Josh Deines, a 2012 graduate of Midland University.
One of the better all-around players in Class D-2, senior Justin Lee (6-5, 195) returns at tight end after last season catching 35 passes for 575 yards and eight touchdowns. Getting him the ball is outstanding sophomore quarterback Jacey Nutter (6-1, 175), a returning all-district player who as a rookie passed for 1,009 yards and 15 touchdowns and also rushed for 176 yards and three more touchdowns.
Two veteran seniors return at running back, including Caden Jameson (5-9, 170), who rushed for 418 yards and six touchdowns, and Alex Coffman (5-9, 150), who gained 211 yard and scored five times. Look for sophomore Colby Collier (5-9,175) to add some pop to the running game after last year gaining 181 yards and scoring five TDs in limited touches.
Three starters return in the line, including juniors Cole Hewett (6-0, 185) and Dylan Andersen (5-10, 180) and senior Shane Lewis (5-9, 200). Incoming freshman Tyler Swisher (6-0, 200) is expected to make an immediate impact in the line.
Nutter (83 tackles, 4 INTs), Jameson (46 tackles, 2 INTs) and Coffman (45 tackles) will give the Knights one of the better secondaries in Class D-2 football. Lee (61 tackles, 3 FR) and Collier (58 tackles, 4 FR) are an excellent set of linebackers and Andersen (57 tackles, 10 TFL, 4 sacks) leads a defensive line that will include Hewett and Swisher. Additional help on the defensive side of the ball will come from junior Greg Schukei (5-7, 150), who had 28 tackles last season, and sophomore Austin Coffman (6-0,150), who had 20 tackles.
That's a lot of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball...
Defending D-2 runner-up Stuart, Overton and Anselmo-Merna are on the schedule but we see Sandhills/Thedford winning five or six, including a surprise along the way. Just sayin'...
After reeling off 11 straight wins to open last season, a run which led the Eagles to the Class D-1 semifinals, Overton drops to Class D-2, returning just two players with starting experience from an 11-1 team.
"I think we can have a good season as long as we have some of our underclassmen step up and take on some roles they haven't played at the varsity level," says head coach Paul Heusinkvelt, who has compiled a 23-8 record in his three seasons at Overton. "We will ride the backs of our offensive and defensive lines and want to be a tough, hard-nosed team."
A returning all-stater, senior Zach Zeleski (6-0, 270) is one of the premier linemen in eight-man football and he and senior Dillon Margritz (6-0, 185) represent the foundation of the team's offensive front. Senior Taylor Dedrick (6-1, 195) and junior Bricen Margritz (5-10, 220) figure to step into key roles in the line, as will senior tight end Kris Seberger (5-10, 175).
Senior Creighton Ryan (6-4, 180), who saw time at running back and wide receiver last season, will become the team's new starting quarterback with senior Justin Hodgson (6-0, 180), who last year rushed for 143 yards, bringing some experience to the running game. Sophomores Josh Thompson (5-7, 150) and Tony Vollmer (5-7, 150) will add depth in the running game.
Zeleski (50 tackles, 15.5 TFL) is a monster at the line of scrimmage and will be joined in the D-line by Dillon and Bricen Margritz and Dedrick. Hodgson (48 tackles) is a quality linebacker who will be joined at that position by Seberger, Thompson and Vollmer.
Ryan will play safety on defense.
Opening with Med Valley, Kenesaw and Giltner is no piece of cake and with all the new faces we expect Overton to finish somewhere around .500.
A roster filled with veteran players, including seven starters on offense and five on offense, gives hope to the idea Pleasanton will improve upon last year's 4-4 mark.
"We have several returning starters returning and if they can help us establish a solid foundation, beginning with great leadership and hard work, we will have a chance to be a very good team," says head coach Ricci Westland, a 1995 graduate who has won 107 games in his 18 years at PHS.
An outstanding athlete, senior Brendan Axmann (5-9, 145) will become a four-year starter, a returning all-district player who last season rushed for 616 yards and 11 touchdowns and passed for another 443 yards and four TDs. The Bulldogs also return an outstanding running back in all-district senior Colton Lammers (5-8, 160), who last year rushed for 851 yards and 10 touchdowns, with incoming freshman Hunter Paitz (6-1, 160) likely to help at the skill positions.
Senior Blake Eckhout (6-2, 140) is a talented receiver, last year catching nine passes for 226 yards (25 yards per) and two touchdowns. Returning at the other tight end position is senior Kale Miller (5-9, 145) with sophomore Ryan Busch (6-2, 185) a talented athlete who will contribute.
Three starters return in the offensive line, including seniors Nicho Tapia (5-8, 220) and Mike Winberg (6-0, 210) and promising junior Trey Keaschall (5-10, 260) another returning starter who wrestled in last year's state semifinals.
Eckhout (53 tackles), Axmann (52 tackles, 3 INTs) and Miller (33 tackles, 4 TFL), who was another all-district pick, lead a secondary that will probably include Paitz; it should be an outstanding secondary. Lammers (86 tackles, 7.5 TFL) is an all-district linebacker while Tapia (36 tackles, 5.5 TFL), Keaschall, Winberg and Busch will man the defensive front.
These seniors have helped slowly rebuild the program and we see the payoff this year, when the Bulldogs win six or seven in the regular season and compete for the district title and playoff berth.
There's a new head coach at S-E-M, where former Bertrand mentor Brent Streeter steps into the leadership role, taking over a team that returns seven starters on defense and six on offense. The Mustangs were winless in 2013.
"There is a good among of experience on the team and we will play a lot of sophomores and juniors," says Coach Streeter, who has won 86 games in his career.
Sophomore Jason Line (5-10, 150) returns as the team's quarterback after last year passing for 318 yards and one touchdown with junior Dalton Nichols (5-10, 200) and sophomore Nathan Schroeder (5-10, 170) expected to play the running back positions. Junior Stetson Dittmar (5-8, 150) returns as a starter at wide receiver.
A defending state champion wrestler and a starter since he was a freshman, junior Grant Clausen (5-10, 260) returns to lead an offensive line that will also include senior Chantz Klein (5-9, 185) and junior Francisco Orozco (6-1, 260).
Dittmar (27 tackles) and Line will lead the secondary while Schroeder (22 tackles) and Nichols will play linebacker for the Mustangs. Clausen (31 tackles), Klein (33 tackles) and Orozco will anchor the team's defensive line.
Especially if the offense can find a way to develop some consistency the Mustangs can win a couple of games this season.