Health to be key for thin Indians
The trainer's table will be the biggest opponent of the Mahnomen Indians this season, with very solid first-string players, but young and inexperienced after that.
The Indians' skill players will be a key to the team's success, with each of senior fullback Alex LaVoy and quarterback Dylan Stevens returning.
But the overall depth will be a concern, meaning injuries will need to be at a minimum throughout the season.
"Health and conditioning will be keys, because a lot of our guys will be going both ways," said Mahnomen head coach John Clark Jr. "We are going to develop some depth and let the younger kids play, but that's a work in progress, too."
But while that depth is developing, the top line players will make the Indians a tough squad week in and week out.
LaVoy returns at the fullback position and brings more than just your normal pile-pushing runner.
"He's improved on his speed and we can move him around at fullback, wing or wide receiver," Clark said. "We are banking on Alex to make plays."
The Indians will also have the seasoned Stevens at quarterback, after a good year in 2009.
"Dylan has better command of the offense and he'll have more freedom to change the plays at the line of scrimmage this year," Clark said. "He looks more comfortable at the position."
Stevens will also be a threat at rushing the ball after adding 15 pounds of muscle over the offseason.
"We'll be able to pass, as well, with more boot plays and waggles," the Mahnomen coach said. "He's an athletic quarterback."
Avery Fairbanks will also nab some carries in the backfield, as well as lining up outside at the wing position.
"He's a freshman with speed," Clark said of Fairbanks.
The offensive line has already been nicked up, with some shuffling going on during the preseason practices.
"Coming in, our offensive line was a strength, but we've had to patchwork it a little before the season has even started," Clark said. "But we should be full strength by the end of the season."
The Indians return four of five offensive line starters, who will be entering as three-year starters.
Kyle Robinson, Tyler Coleman, Jake Hedstrom and Alex Green each will be key components on the offensive line.
"They are strong and agile and they've seen it all and good at making adjustments being three-year starters," Clark included.
At the wideout position, Cody Gieseke and Jake Pavek (6-foot-3) will provide Stevens with reliable targets.
The defense will be anchored by three returning linebackers in LaVoy, Robinson and Fairbanks.
Nick Otto will also be in the linebacking rotation.
"They are all athletic and love to hit," Clark said.
Andy Kresbach will fill the nose guard slot, while Hedstrom will bring a non-stop motor to the defensive tackle position.
Green and Coleman will also see time on the D-line, with Luke Littlewolf and Jake Pavek playing defensive end.
Stevens will be the field general at safety, with Mitch Kochmann and Garret Hoffner being the cornerbacks.
"I think we can create enough pressure on the quarterback to create some interceptions and turn the ball over more this season," Clark said.