The Verndale Pirates football team and head coach Mike Mahlen hope to continue the dynasty they have developed through the years.
The Pirates returned to the Nine-Man state tournament last year by winning the Section 4 title. They were defeated in the first round, but with 13 returning letterwinners they hope to build on last year's success.
Mahlen begins his 33rd year as head coach and is only six wins away from 250 in his career. With 244 wins, 75 losses and three ties, Mahlen has built a football factory in Verndale and the product this year should once again be entertaining.
The Pirates return four of their top five rushers from last year. They will miss leading rusher Matt Kern who has graduated, but juniors Casey Fink (339 yards on 60 carries last year) and Kyle Ashman (213 yards on 26 carries) should help fill the void.
Football coach -- Mike Mahlen, 33rd year
Career record -- 244-75-3
2000 record -- 8-3 overall, 6-2 Pheasant Conference;
Assistant coaches -- Tim Seaton, Jeff Moore, Greg Johnson
Volleyball coach -- Kelly Youngbauer, 1st year
Career record -- 0-0
2000 record -- 3-20 overall, 1-8 in Park Region Conference
Assistant coaches -- Andrea Youngbauer, Valerie Schmitz
Quarterback Chad Christianson is also back for another tour of duty. The senior passed for 1,065 yards and 10 touchdowns. He completed 50.3 percent of his passes (79-157), and rushed for 130 yards.
Christianson will miss receiver Chris Bramer but senior Jordan Hinkle returns. Hinkle caught 14 passes for 323 yards and two scores. End Drew Schmidt also returns as does Justin Rogge.
The offensive and defensive lines look to be deep and experienced. Senior center Adam Richter returns as does tackles Ryan Sundby, Eric Bramer, Cody Lovelace and George Kveton.
If defense wins titles then Verndale will need to continue its dominant play on that side of the ball. The Pirates held their opponents to just 3.49 yards per rush. They held opposing quarterbacks to a 46.7 completion percentage and only nine touchdowns. Verndale picked off 15 passes and recovered 14 fumbles.
Additional varsity candidates:
Seniors -- Ted Hron (E-DB), Brian Dougherty (E-DB).
Juniors -- Dana Wilcox (RB-LB), Daryl Dunbar (C-LB).
Sophomores -- Jason Kneisl (T), Wyatt Carr (E), Cory Umland (QB-S), Brad Erckenbrack (E), Brent Mattson (E-T), Cory Ash (T), Matt Desrocher (FB-LB), Spencer Greer (E-DB).
Kelly Youngbauer begins her first season as head coach of the Verndale Pirates volleyball team.
Youngbauer was an assistant under Lyle Haraldson, who has retired, for four years and inherits one of the more experienced Pirate teams.
Last year the Pirates finished 1-8 in the Park Region Conference, 3-20 overall, and were eliminated in the first round of the Subsection 5A tournament by McGregor.
Youngbauer will rely heavily on Kayla White, a senior all-conference selection. White, a middle hitter and setter, will be flanked by returning starters Jessica Desrocher (outside hitter), Stephanie Tomte (middle hitter) and Melissa Stave (middle hitter).
Also returning are letterwinners Kate Wenzel (outside hitter/back row specialist), Beth Rogge (setter/outside hitter) and Raya Kern (outside hitter).
"We had many girls play summer league and many girls went to camps," said Youngbauer. "Beth Rogge and Melissa Stave went to Belgium this summer to play so this year we have a strong starting six.
"We hope to better our record from last year."
Additional varsity candidates:
Senior -- Kelly Olson (OH).
Juniors -- Ashley Gades (BRS), Pam Hron (BRS) Natalie Lehner (S/OH) Crystal Schoon (S/OH).
Sophomores -- Trista Dockham (S/BRS), Kelly Schmidt (MH/MB).
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