Head coach: Scott Miller,
Career record: 10-26
Assistant coaches: Rob Williams, Mike Statz, Jason Henke
Conference: Great Polar
2006 record: 5-4 overall,
Seniors: Scott Nyberg (QB-CB), Andrew Hallberg (RB-LB), Nathan Cummings (RB-LB), Dan Landrus (G-DE), Adam Cook (G-NG), Jase Hegman (TE-DE); Juniors: Anthony Pohl (RB-CB)
Seniors: Mike Weitnauer (WR-CB), Matt Christensen; Juniors: Nick Harmon (QB-CB), Dan Catlin (WR-FS), Genarro Montano (RB-DE), Travis Tuenge (C-LB), Doug Kommer (T-T), Brian Collins (G-N), Shaun Hansen (C-T), Sam Dally (G-DE), Anders Kullhem (T-LB), Albert Peterson (TE-DE); Sophomores: Andy Nyberg (T-DT), Andrew Welshons (SS), Curt Coratt (LB)
Prognosis: A new conference, a new section and a new offensive line are three question marks for the Gobblers this year.
Luckily for Aitkin the answers are in hand.
The Gobblers move from the Great River Conference into the Great Polar Conference. While the name has changed, many of the teams Aitkin will play haven't. On the schedule remains Hinckley-Finlayson, Rush City, Braham and Crosby-Ironton with the addition of Pine City.
"What I like is this just gives us consistency with our non-conference games," said Aitkin head coach Scott Miller. "Instead of having to travel to Crookston, Yellow Medicine East or Pequot Lakes we're just going to play teams from the northern part of our conference. I'm excited about that. We did lose a couple of teams, but we pick up Crosby, who we already played and we pick up Pine City, who nobody knows anything about."
The Gobblers jumped back up to Section 7-3A with the likes of Proctor, International Falls, Eveleth-Gilbert, Virginia, C-I, Esko and Two Harbors.
"If you look at 7-2A that's not any better," said Miller. "There are really strong teams in both sections. I don't look at it like I would rather be in one section or the other, other than having to potentially drive to International Falls, which nobody likes. Unfortunately, we are at the cut line and they choose to put us up this year."
Aitkin returns just one lineman, Adam Cook, from last year's team that rushed for 1,993 yards and passed for 688. Sophomore Andy Nyberg will start. While Miller expects him to make mistakes early, he hopes those mistakes disappear as the season progresses.
To help that inexperienced line the Gobblers will use a trio of running backs.
Back are Andrew Hallberg and Nathan Cummings. Returning to the football squad is wrestling and baseball standout Matt Christensen.
"As a unit we're stronger than we were last year at that position," said Miller. "We expect big things from Andy Hallberg. He's just a bulldog with tremendous balance and power. Nathan Cummings will also be playing in the backfield. He's quick and a has a little bit of a nasty side. He's going to be a huge part of what we're doing. Matt is coming back after a few years away. He's looking like he hasn't missed a beat."
Also back in the backfield is quarterback Scott Nyberg. The senior saw time in place of the injured Connor Butenhoff.
Hallberg and Cummings will also anchor the defense from the linebacker position. Miller believes he has the athletes to run his defensive scheme.
Head coach: Mike Gindorff, 3rd year
Career mark: 1-17
Assistant coaches: Neil Tesdahl, Tim Millsop, Jeremy Koop
Section: Section 7-3A
Conference: Great Polar
2006 record: 0-9 overall
Seniors: Derek Midthun (QB-LB), Troy Thompson (RB-DE), Ben Rothstein (FB-LB), Brandon Biever (FB-LB), Jason Hite (HB-LB), Ryan Holmvig (TE-SS), Kyle Meierding (OT-NT), Justin Garcia (T-DT), Derek Swanhorst (T-DT), Kyle Metsa (C-NT), Jared Mickelson (WR-FS), Joe McLaughlin (TE-DE), Zach Brix (TE-DE)
Juniors: Cory Henningson (FB-LB), Max Engen (G-DT), Mike Girtz (WR-CB)
Seniors: Trevor Dickie (WR-DB), Kevin Mason (WR-CB), Josh McCain (OL-DL), Brady Knudsen (QB-LB), Levi Kugel (OL-DL)
Juniors: Mike Bertram (OL-DL), Jordan Klicker (WR-CB)
Sophomores: Sam Baker (WR-DB), Matthew Hudrlik (WR-CB), Justin Edmundson (WR-CB), Mark Hoge (QB-DB), Brett Arneson (OL-DL), Chris Rothstein (OL-DL), Tim Chandler (WR-CB), Ben Carlson (TE-DE), Alex Bundy (WR-DB), Adam Ellingsen (OL-DL), Peter Leuck (OL-LB), Logan Patrick (FB-LB)
Prognosis: The Rangers have found a home and it's the Great Polar Conference.
That, coupled with key returners, has head coach Mike Gindorff confident his team can improve on last year's 0-9 season.
After years of playing an independent schedule, the Rangers will face Aitkin, Braham, Rush City, Pine City and Hinckley-Finlayson on a yearly basis with its other three games coming from the northern teams in the Great Polar Conference.
Returning from last year are seniors Ben Rothstein, Brandon Biever and Jason Hite. Those three will look to secure a backfield that gained just 1,567 yards on the ground and 700 in the air.
Last year Hite caught seven passes for 151 yards and three touchdowns.
"We're looking to be competitive in the conference race," said Gindorff. "We have a great attitude, an improved offensive line and skill players.
"Our offensive line currently looks like the strength of our team. We have replaced some key components and that unit should be pretty solid.
"Quarterback is an issue, but we have a healthy competition for the starting spot."
Pequot Lakes Patriots
Head coach: Chip Lohmiller, 4th year
Career record: 11-16
Assistant coaches: Richard Johnson, A.J. Johnson, Dean Hoult, Nick Grunzke, Gary Wolf, John Derksen
Conference: Heart O'Lakes Classic
2006 record: 6-4 overall,
Seniors: Adam Stonacek (RB-LB), Travis Nelson (FB-LB), Matt Goerges (G-T), Cory McFeters (WR-CB), Ryan Pahl (G-E)
Seniors: Bobby DeWolfe (WR-FS), Shay Neumann (WR-CB), Cam Hallan (K-E), Dan Schmidt (G-T), Ben Tiedemann (C-T), Doug Brower (T-T), Darren Rader (T-T)
Juniors: Max Nelson (RB-SS), Jeff Redmond (QB), Derek Grunzke (E-E), TJ Biley (RB-CB), Chase Mason (RB-LB), Zach Humphrey (FB-LB), Cody Carlson (G-T), Nic Johnsen (WR-CB)
Sophomores: Matt Michaelson (WR/QB-FS), Cody Chambers (FB-LB)
Seniors: Jon Van Patten (RB-CB), Lance Bragstad (RB-SS)
Juniors: Nic Harrison (WR-S), Bryan Kittleson (WR-CB), Zach Sogge (WR-CB), Mason Headlee (E), Dustin Campbell (T-T), Eric Anderson (T-T), Blake Barrows (T-T), Marshal Ahlgrim (T-T)
Sophomores: Cole Engen (QB-SS), Andrew Kostecka (WR-CB), Nathan Lehman (RB-LB), Kory Eichorst (WR-CB), David Liedl (E-E), Tristan Brown (RB-CB), Andy Moengen (WR-CB), Jordan Severance (G-C), Jason Daudt (FB-LB), Kendall Swenson (T-C), Logan Swanstrom (LB), Louie Farone (FB-LB), Joe Arens (WR-CB), Ethan Buehl (G-T), Michael Sullivan (T-T), Chris Tappe (G-T), Michael Ward (E-E), Casey Derksen (C-T), Brad Tiedemann (CB), Nic Greer (WR-CB)
Prognosis: Despite missing two games, Adam Stonacek rushed for 941 yards and 12 touchdowns. He added 50 tackles and returned a kickoff 72 yards for another score. Leading the Patriots to a 6-4 overall record and the Section 8-3A semifinals.
Stonacek was named to the Dispatch All-Area team last year, but will have to find someone else to run behind as the Patriots graduated standout lineman Matt Bartella.
Leading that offensive line will be two-year letterwinner Matt Goerges. The senior guard will try and help the Patriots match last year's offensive output of 2,100 rushing yards and 550 passing.
"We have a quarterback with a lot of experience," said Pequot head coach Chip Lohmiller. "Our backs are back, we have experience at wideouts and everybody we have has experience. We do have a lot of depth.
"Our line is bigger than last year, but we don't have the experienced guys we had last year."
Another of Lohmiller's frustrations is a new conference, which means opponents the team isn't familiar with.
The Heart O'Lakes and Northern Lakes Conferences combined to form the Heart O'Lakes Classic. It was then split into North and South divisions. Pequot is in the South half with Breckenridge, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Pelican Rapids, West Central Area and Wadena-Deer Creek.
Pequot will be familiar with its section opponents, however.
"We should be as good or better than we were last year," Lohmiller said. "We set our goals and we're looking at a two- or one-loss season. Of course, injuries and everything else we can't control could change that. We have great depth and a lot of our specialty players are back. We've matured and I think we have a better understanding of the defense and offense."
Head coach: Leo Pohlkamp
Career record: 155-64
Assistant coaches: Rick Sczublewski, Dave Rocheleau, Dan Saehr
Conference: Central Minnesota
2006 record: 7-0 conference, 10-1 overall
Seniors: Scott Janson (QB-DB), Corey Egan (QB-DB), Matt Woitalla (RB-DB), Brad Kapsner (WR-DB), Josh Boser (RB-LB), Aaron Schmidtbauer (RB-LB), Jimmy Hiemenz (RB-DE), Jake Otremba (G-DE), Eric Andres (G-LB), Robert Froelich (G-DT), Adam Wimmer (T-DT), Jordan Przybilla (G-NG), Tony Marshik (C-NG), Scott Bednar (T), Jesse Hillyer (C), Nick Eich (T-DT), Kevin Groves (G-LB), Brad Welle (T-DT), Adam Hyatt (T-DT), Mark Kahl (TE)
Seniors: Alex Leach (RB), Travis Meyer (G), Wes Trapp (WR), Alex Huls (G), Josh Girtz (WR)
Juniors: Kyle Bednar (WR), Michael Weber (QB), Chad Lanners (WR), Paul Gruber (WR), Ben Eaves (RB), Tanner Tetrick (RB), Zach Doroff (RB), Jake Zahurones (WR), Josh Smude (T), Kyle Kloss (T), TJ Jensen (G), Zak Otremba (T), Shane Paul Smallfield (G), Tyler Monson (WR)
Sophomores: Travis Kahl (QB), Zach Pohlkamp (QB), Cody Stangl (RB), Mitch Woitalla (RB), Jake Nelson (RB), Jeremy Kapsner (WR), Skylar Zelazin (G), Jesse Nordman (RB), Tyler Nordman (WR), Joe Wimmer (G), Matt Isder (T), Cody Robinson (G), Dillon Wieczorek (C), Andy York (T), Tyler Hapke (T), Dylan Peterson (T), Alex Bujalski (TE), Andy Kretschmar (TE), Zach Kummet (WR), Dylan Held (T)
Prognosis: A quarterback who threw for 449 yards and five touchdowns. A running back who rushed for 708 yards and eight touchdowns and another who gained 137 yards and two more scores.
That's who the Pioneers bring back to what has turned into one of the most explosive backfields in the area.
But the Pioneers only return one offensive lineman and two defensive linemen from last year's section final team.
Helping ease the transition period are two new faces. Alex Leach comes over from Onamia, where he lettered, and Alex Huls lettered last year at Holdingford. Those two should see plenty of playing time.
"We have some speed and quickness on offense and depending on how our line comes around we should be fine on offense," said Pohlkamp. "Our quarterback is solid. The combination of Leach, Aaron Schmidtbauer and Matt Woitalla gives us a good balance of running and throwing the ball."
Leading that developing offensive line will be returning starter Jake Otremba. Last year Pierz rushed for 3,120 yards and threw for 837 on its way to a 10-1 record. The Pioneers lost in the Section 4-2A final to St. Croix Lutheran.
This year the Pioneers find themselves in a new section for the fourth straight two-year rotation. Pierz was placed with Ottertail Central, Breckenridge, West Central Area, Holdingford, Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Wadena-Deer Creek, Morris Area and Ottertail Central.
"Our goal is to get back to the Fargodome," said Pohlkamp. "That's where the section finals are."
The conference will be up to its usual standards, led by Pierz and Eden Valley-Watkins. Pohlkamp believes EV-W will be one of the top teams in 2A.
Despite bringing back only four starters, the Pioneers do have 20 letterwinners. Quarterback Scott Janson is one of those returners. He was 24-of-61 passing for 449 yards and five scores. Woitalla gained 708 yards on just 71 carries, a 10.0 average per carry. He also caught six passes for 70 yards.
On defense Jesse Hillyer totaled 73 tackles, two sacks, three hurries and two fumble recoveries. Otremba had 27 tackles and four hurries. Josh Boser, who started at defensive end last year, finished with 38 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery. Adam Wimmer collected 33 tackles and one-half sack and Schmidtbauer had 30 tackles.
Head coach: Lowell Scearcy, 1st year
Assistant coaches: Eric Kauffmann, Shannon Hunstad, Don Bybee, Jake Mehr, Jason Cline, Dan Johnson, Eric Fornshell
Conference: Prairie North
2006 record: 2-7 overall, 1-3 conference
Seniors: Zach Albachten (OL-LB), Josh Alexander (RB-DL), Kyle Anderson (OL-DL), Kyle Borders (RB-LB), Jake Eastman (RB-DB), Christian House (WR-DB), Zack Kadus (OL-DL), Jake Martin (RB-DB), Spencer Norwood (OL-LB), Justin Rogers (WR-DB), Luke Rosekrans (OL-DL), Josh Weizenegger (TE-DB)
Juniors: Shawn Baron (WR-DB), Justin Gangestad (RB-LB), Reggie Gross (OL-DL), Nathan Marcy (TE-LB), Derick Minkel (OL-LB), Jamie Pearson (WR-DB), Josh Rardin (TE-LB), Justin Ringler (QB-DB), Andrew Simon (OL-DL)
Sophomores: Tyson Bell (OL-DL), Tony Davison (RB-DB), Justin Hiltner (OL-DL), Anthony Kadus (OL-DL), Matt Martin (OL-DL), Luke Richards (RB-LB), Matt Sellers (OL-DL), Cole Thompson (QB-DB)
Freshmen: Ryan Benhardus (OL-DL), Jordan Hunstad (QB-DB), Rian Hutchinson (OL-DL), Mathew Lenk (OL-DL), Ben Manlick (RB-DB), Chase Martin (OL-DL), Sean Nokken (RB-DB), Phillip Ramsey (OL-DL), Taylor Richardson (RB-LB), Ethan Ringler (QB-DB), Ethan Russell (OL-DL), John Simmons (OL-DL)
Prognosis: Lowell Scearcy is back at his alma mater to lead the Pillager football team.
He'll have the services of 12 seniors, including four-year starter Jack Eastman, and All-Prairie North and All-Section 6-1A player Josh Alexander.
Last year Eastman lined up at quarterback but should see time at running back along with Alexander.
Alexander rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on just 18 carries, but was second on the team with 83 tackles, seven sacks, three fumble recoveries and an interception.
Kyle Anderson, Luke Rosekrans and Zach Albachten are all two-year returning letterwinners. Albachten received all-conference honorable mention along with juniors Nathan Marcy and Derick Minkel.
Head coach: Randy Schwegel
Assistant coaches: Tom Demars, Randy Robb, Terry Holden
Conference: Northern Plains
2006 record: 7-3 overall, 4-1 conf.
Seniors: Trenton Fisher (RB), Nathon Waslaski (RB), Pat Bresnahan (RB), Jared Johnson (RB), David Sullivan (LB), Joe Marvin (C), Cody Currell (OL), Andrew Zwart (OL), Kevin Peltier (OL), Marcus Hernandez (TE)
Sophomore: Jordan Farmer (RB)
Juniors: Ben Kline (DB/QB), Michelle Dickson (WR), Glen Abbott (RB), Jordan Stockman (OL), Jacob Joy (WR)
Sophomores: Levi Allen (RB), Michael Peterson (RB), Andy Davidson (OL), Jeremy Weber (OL), Mitchell Kline (TE), Brian Plantz (WR), Jason Plantz (WR)
Prognosis: Junior Ben Kline will take over as the Tigers' quarterback. Last year Kline attempted just two passes.
"We had four quarterbacks last year and this year it's all Ben's," said Tigers head coach Randy Schwegel.
Not in Kline's favor is the fact his is the smallest team, size-wise, that Schwegel has ever coached. Schwegel said he has just one player who weighs more than 200 pounds.
On the bright side the Tigers do bring back two key weapons from last year's 7-3 squad.
Marcus Hernandez was named to the Dispatch All-Area team last year as he led the Tigers with 82 tackles. Offensively, he caught seven passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. He tied for second in the area with five interceptions.
Fullback Pat Bresnahan also returns after rushing for 332 yards and four touchdowns. He also tallied 64 tackles from his linebacker position.
"I know I've said this in the past, but we can't have any injuries. We just can't have anyone get hurt," said Schwegel. "We need to keep Pat and Marcus and Joe (Marvin) healthy. David Sullivan is another guy who has played a lot of football and we can't see him get hurt.
"Defensively, we'll be good. On offense we'll see how Ben comes along. He's doing a pretty good job. We can't have any penalties on offense. We are going to be challenged to move the ball and if we go backward, it would be detrimental."
Marvin started last year on an offensive line that helped PR-B rush for 1,466 yards and pass for 467 in five conference games. Senior Cody Currell also saw time last year on the offensive line.
Also new for the Tigers is their conference. PR-B moved to the Northern Plains Conference that will feature old North Star teams Blackduck, Walker-Hackensack-Akeley and Bagley along with Hawley, Frazee, Fertile-Beltrami and Mahnomen.
It's also a new section for PR-B.
Schwegel believes Hawley will be the favorite in the conference and section.
Head coach: Ryan Beachy, 10th year
Career record: 56-32
Assistant coaches: Erik Johnson, Paul Mithun, Lynn Peterson, Mark Jennissen, Lloyd Allen
Conference: West Central North Conference
2006 record: 6-4 overall,
Seniors: Caleb Nurnberger (QB-FS), Mike Dailey (G-DT), Jose Alba (OT-DE), Ryan Halverson (C-LB), Kodiey Lind (FB-LB); Junior Trevor Ness (TB-CB)
Seniors: Zach Koskiniemi, Ben Enney, Tyler Hoemberg, Mike Tappe, Kyle Brotherton, David Dukowitz; Juniors: Joe Roline, John McFedries, Trevor Lisson, Anthony Jenkins, David Becker; Sophomores: Brandon Wing, Ryan Detloff, Lance Flickenger, Dylan Shequen
Prognosis: The Cardinals' dreaded option running attack should be as solid as ever as starting fullback Kodiey Lind returns as does tailback Caleb Nurnberger.
The former quarterback turned tailback will move back to quarterback. In his place will be sophomore Trevor Ness, who started last year in the defensive secondary and saw time in the backfield.
Last year the Cardinals rushed for 3,773 yards and threw for 432. Gaining 1,111 of those yards was Lind. He added 14 touchdowns on 104 carries. He was named the West Central Conference running back of the year.
On defense, from the linebacker spot, Lind added 86 tackles to make the Dispatch All-Area team.
Nurnberger rushed for 765 yards and 14 touchdowns. The All-West Central Conference selection added two interceptions and 53 tackles.
"Our strength this year should be our backfield," said S-M head coach Ryan Beachy, who starts his 10th season. "Caleb started as a sophomore and then moved to running back last year. He'll return as our starting quarterback and I expect him to do many things. Offensively, we plan to use the passing game more than in the past.
"We look for another solid year from Kodiey."
Mike Dailey, Jose Alba and Ryan Halverson return to the offensive line. It's become a source of pride for the Cardinals to have one individual up for conference lineman of the year. Beachy doesn't see why that should change this year.
"We have four seniors starting on our offensive line," Beachy said. "We lost a lot of seniors from last year's team and they will be missed. However, if our 'rookies' step up like I believe they will, we will be in contention for conference and section titles."
Beachy believes Albany is a favorite for the conference and section. This year that section is without Litchfield, which has been a favorite the last two seasons.
Head coach: Mike Mahlen, 39th year
Career record: 294-92-3
Assistant coaches: Tim Seaton, Jeff Moore, Matt Jones, Jordan Hinkle
2006 record: 8-3 overall, 3-1 conference
Seniors: Sam Moenkedick (RB-LB), Cole Weber (QB-DB), Ethan Kern (RB-DB), Jake Seaton (FB-LB); Junior: Matt Moenkedick (QB-LB)
Seniors: Mike Willis (T-LB), Cole Cottrell (E-DB), Caleb Seals (E-LB), Derek Wiese (E-LB), Mitch Thorn (T-NG)
Juniors: Brady Siedschlaw (E-DB), Dan Weiher (E-DL), Shylo Moyer (T-DL)
Juniors: Greg Keppers (E-DB), Jeremy Sibert, Cody Luchs, Ben Walsdik
Sophomores: Nathan Dunbar, Justin Kern, Clay Cottrell, Johnathan Kohlhase, Trevor Enberg, Nathan Wiese, Kyle Powers, Colby Schmidt
Prognosis: Last season Sam Moenkedick rushed for 1,361 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Ethan Kern rushed for 303 yards and five touchdowns.
Jake Seaton caught 19 passes for 281 yards and five touchdowns.
Matt Moenkedick caught 12 passes for 167 yards.
Those four return along with Cole Weber to lead the Pirates into the Pheasant Conference and Section 4, Nine-man, both of which head coach Mike Mahlen said are wide open.
"In the section we're down to seven teams," said Mahlen, who starts his 39th season. "We added Hillcrest, Brandon-Evansville and Ashby and lost Laporte, Nevis, Winsted-Holy Trinity and Isle. To me the section overall got tougher. I think it's seven teams that are pretty equal."
Mahlen said the north part of the conference is equal as well with Wheaton in the south half as the overall favorite.
But, with five returning starters back from last year's 8-3 squad that advanced to the section final, Verndale is poised to make a statement.
"We have good skilled players in Matt and Sam and Jake and Ethan," Mahlen said. "All those guys have started since they were sophomores and Matt as a freshman. They have quite a bit of experience. Our line is a little shaky right now. We're still looking for offensive linemen."
How quickly both lines develop will determine how Verndale fares. Projected starting quarterback Cole Weber hurt his finger in last week's scrimmage so Matt Moenkedick will man the position until Weber's return.
Head coach: Dirk Schulz, 3rd year
Career record: 4-13
Assistant coaches: Norm Gallant, Nate Thompson, Tom VanErp
Section: Section 6-2A
Conference: Heart O'Lakes
2006 record: 1-7 overall, 0-4 conference
Seniors: Alex Barbato (WR), Matt Stone (RB), Andrew Snyder (TE), Matt Lepper (RB), Tony Wegscheid (TE), Robbie Ludovissie (WR)
Junior: Donny Tabery (QB), Holden Rautio (RB), Caleb Hamman (WR), Riley Snyder (RB), Max LaBarre (RB), David Paulson (OL), Allen Uselman (OL), Ryan Wolfenden (OL), Eddie Lustila (OL), Stephen Peterson (OL)
Sophomores: Zack Kelderman (RB), Aaron Kern (RB), Michael Burcham (OL), Kevin Tumberg (OL), Andrew Timm (OL), Dane Hoffman (OL), Cody Redfield (OL), Tyler Muehler (OL)
Prognosis: Donny Tabery threw for 237 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-41 passing last year and will once again call the plays for the Wolverines.
Last year W-DC finished 1-7 overall before falling in the first round of the Section 6-3A playoffs. This year W-DC moves to 6-2A with Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Pierz, West Central Area, Breckenridge, Holdingford, Morris Area and Ottertail Central.
The Wolverines are also in a new conference. The Northern Lakes Conference merged with the Heart O'Lakes. W-DC is in the South half with Pequot Lakes, Breckenridge, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, West Central Area and Pelican Rapids.
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